Mostly a true story

 

 

Pet rabbit

When I was seven or eight, my father caught a rabbit.  As in, saw it by the side of the road one winter evening, stopped the car, and chased it down.  I don’t know what possessed him to do this.  He’d been drinking and we were poor; presumably he saw it as an opportunity to bring home a pet for my younger sister and me.  Also, he liked a challenge.  This was a man who swam in the winter, in the Adirondacks where winters (and lakes) are frigid. He believed swimming in icy waters kept him from catching colds.  I don’t know if that was true.  It is true, however, that he is still alive and 82 (though he no longer drinks or chases rabbits or swims in winter).

My sister and I were happy to have the rabbit.  A rabbit is soft and cuddly, and lives longer than a goldfish — especially our goldfish, which we had not had much luck keeping alive for very long.  My sister kept wanting to hold hers; I kept forgetting to feed mine.

But this is not really about rabbits or pets or fathers who chase wild rabbits through the woods until they catch them.  It’s about memory, and the illusionary nature of what we think we know.

What I thought I knew was this: my father chased a rabbit through the woods, caught it and brought it home.  We kept the rabbit in a pen in the yard.  I came home one day from school, or from playing, and learned that the rabbit was dead, which was bad enough, but then later sat down to a dinner of rabbit.  Our rabbit.  I am still traumatized by the memory.  Especially after toting it around in my bag of recollections for so many decades.  (It’s a wonder I am sane.)

After rummaging through my memory recently, I decided to fill in the gaps of this particular story.  I called my sister, first.  She remembered the rabbit incident.  The neighbor’s dog killed it, she said.  They gave us a black bunny to make up for it.

What neighbor, I asked?  I didn’t remember the dog-as-rabbit-killer bit, or the black bunny replacement.

The people who lived next door, said my sister.  An old couple, they drank a lot.  I think his name was Bill.

Even with a nudge, I can’t remember the people who lived next door to us. I can vaguely picture the house — it was smaller than ours — but in my mind it always sat empty.

Okay, but Mom cooked the rabbit for dinner later, I said.  I remember that.

I don’t think she cooked it.

She did!

Maybe.  I suppose she could have.  I remember eating rabbit when we were kids.

Then, I called my mother.  Remember when Dad caught that rabbit and brought it home?

I think so, she said.  We built a little pen for it.  We went somewhere for the day and I forgot to leave it water until after we got home, and by then the rabbit was crazed from being so thirsty.

Is that how it died?  Amy said the neighbor’s dog killed it.

I don’t remember how it died.

Did you cook it?

(I asked nicely.  Not the least bit accusatory.)

No.  Someone would have had to skin it.

Finally, I called my father, the man who caught the rabbit.

Our rabbit, I said.  Amy claims the dog next door killed it.

No.  The dog that killed it belonged to the family who lived on top of the hill. Your brother dated their daughter in high school.

Did Mom cook the rabbit?

There wasn’t much left of that rabbit after the dog got through with it.  The people felt so bad they gave you ducklings.

Amy said we got a black bunny as a replacement.

Could have been, my father said.

So, there you have it.  Mostly a true story, except for the rabbit being cooked. For the life of me, I don’t know where in my psyche that piece came.  A bad dream, perhaps, fused with the memory by virtue of proximity in time.

To this day, though, I will not eat rabbit, nor will I ever as long as I live.

That part is completely true.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition

cemetary & city pmThis morning I thought my death might be imminent.  I hadn’t finished my first cup of coffee yet when the carbon monoxide alarm started beeping.  I called my husband at work.  He didn’t seem too worried, and said he’d come home at lunch. “If I’m dead by the time you get here, you’ll know why,” I told him.

I poured another cup of coffee and turned to the internet.  Then I  called my husband back and told him, never mind.  By then, we’d both figured out that the intermittent beeping meant that the device itself was dying (not me!).  So I ordered a new alarm.

There is nothing that lifts your day so quickly as to think you might be close to death one minute, and discover in the next that, nope.  Not today.

And nothing says juxtaposition like the stones that mark a passing as they stand in witness to the life that carries on.

You can check out the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge here.

How I won the Super Bowl* (or a Happy Birthday to the Boy)

January 20, 1989, roughly 10:30 am.  Picture me sitting in a room, utterly slobberknocked.  My husband has just kissed me on the forehead and gone off to “get some sleep” he said.  Get some sleep?  What about me?  I’ve been awake for twenty-six hours and this is all I get?

Actually, what I got was a 5 pound, 14 ounce package of energy and sweetness that would change my life forever.

The Boy arrived at 10:14 am.  I remember seeing his little face for the first time–his eyes wide open, looking right at me.  I was shocked by the intensity.  A few minutes later a nurse whisked him away, my husband left, and I was alone in an empty room with all this discarded equipment, feeling like I’d just played ten hours of pro football.

Best day of my life.

Fast forward twenty-five years.  Zip past the infancy, the toddler-hood, the childhood that flowed into early adolescence without a hiccup.  The teen years, years of homeschooling, learning to drive, part-time jobs.  Then college, then a first real job.  You could pack it all into a two-hour movie.  Piece of cake.

Last week my husband and I attended an open house at the place where the Boy works.  Throughout the evening, several of his co-workers, including his bosses, took the time to tell us how much they thought of him, how creative he was, what a nice guy he was.  All very gratifying, as well as reassuring in today’s job market. Exactly what every parent hopes to hear.  At one point, the founder of the company jokingly asked me what I had fed him for breakfast, as though how the Boy turned out had anything to do with me.

And that’s the point.  Beyond the love we offered unconditionally, beyond the boundaries we set (and constantly negotiated), who the Boy is now has more to do with who he was when he arrived:  eyes wide open, curious, imaginative, tenacious, persistent, and with a sense of humor.  He loved music and words and laughing, right from the start.

And we are the better for him, his father and I.  He has taught us far more than we ever thought possible to learn.

The Boy leaving for Africa, wearing all his cool clothes

His bags are packed, he’s leaving for Africa, wearing all his cool clothes.

The music that inspired a wish to go to Africa in the photo above.

*NOTE:  I didn’t really.  It’s a metaphor.  The Super Bowl took place two days later.  The 49ers won.  But there was much rejoicing in our house, all the same.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

Feet with purple toenails pm 4

I like these weekly photo challenges.  They’re quick, I can get on and get off, and still feel like I’m not spending quite so much time on the internet.  Plus, they give me a new way of looking at a word.  Today’s word is family.  A word, which for me, is sometimes so fraught with drama I want to run away and hide, or talk some kind person into adopting me.  And yet, I know that my family of origin loves me no matter what, as I do them.

But family is such an expansive word, and when I read the challenge I thought of this photo, taken at least a decade ago.  Because sometimes family is also a word for the friends who will get up before dawn and ride an hour-and-a-half just to stand beside you to watch the sun rise over Walden Pond.

Ring-a-ding-ding

bell pm

Ring out the old, ring in the new
Ring, happy bells, across the snow
The year is going, let him go
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

 Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This was my personal note from The Universe today:

I want you to know, Mary, that I’ve ordered up another year for you.Think I’ll call it 2014.

I’m going to put most of the same people from 2013 in it, since you all think so much alike. But there’ll also be a few new, very cool cats coming to play – give them some time to grow up though.

And I’m going to have things start off pretty much exactly where they left off in 2013, for continuity’s sake. Flips folks out too much when I don’t.

All in all, 365 more days in paradise… and only one request of you:

DREAM BIGGER.

Coolio?

Let’s do this,
The Universe

Dream bigger.  That sounds good to me.  I like that I get my own little note every day from The Universe.  I wake up to them and they always make me smile.  It’s like getting a text from a friend every morning that says, Wake-y, wake-y, you gorgeous creature, you! And you have to believe it, because a friend like that would never lie to you.

Notes from the Universe is just one of the oh-so-many interesting things I discovered through the internet this year.  There are blogs out there, writers who lift me up or break my heart with their words, music–OMG!–the music being played, spoken word poetry, photography, art.  I feel like I spent most of the year in a chair.  Only to discover (on the internet) that sitting too much will make you die.

So it goes.

Last December 31st I blogged about choosing a word for the new year.  One word that I would keep as a source of inspiration, to think on when I needed it. I chose, RISE.  I like how that worked out for me.  This year I’ll take the word DARE along for the ride.

I have big plans for 2014.  There are adventures waiting for me.  After a full and satisfying year of blogging, and discovering kindred spirits, I am going to take a break from all things internet-related in order to write.  Non-stop, seat-of-my-pants, finish-my-damn-book writing.  It’s time.  Look for me in about a month.

Before I go, though, I want to add my voice to the happy throng wishing friends and family well. May 2014 be your best New Year ever.

Cheers and love, people.  Always, the love.

The perfect tree

tree 21013This is not an ordinary Christmas tree.  This tree (though you may not be able to tell at first glance) is perfect.  It is our tree, the one that grew to just the right size and then waited for us to find it.  Every year there is one and only one tree for us, and we always find it, we always do.  And it is perfect.  Every year.

See those little red bows, like the notes of a perfect song, scattered over the branches?  Those bows are from our first Christmas spent in this house, which was newly built with purpose and unfailing energy, and mostly by our own hands.  I made those bows from a fat spool of ribbon and some gold thread that I bought at the Christmas Tree Shops for practically nothing, because we had so little money that year (the house had eaten most of what we had).  And though, they’re hard to pick out in the photo, there are the wicker ornaments, swirled in strands of red and green thread, that we got on our belated Mexican honeymoon just weeks before.

Our life together hangs on that tree.  The Boy’s first dough ornaments; the clay ornaments I made; favorite friends Pikachu and Woody (who still swings his lariat from one of the branches); tiny lockets that hold our Boy’s sweet face with forever smiles at ages two, and five, and seven.  The places we’ve been and the things we’ve seen.  All of them carried home to remember the fun: The Pinocchio and nutcrackers with movable legs; the crowns and the stars and the snowy white owl; a streetcar emblazoned with the year we saw San Francisco.  A clown on a unicycle found in a shop that we’d stepped into to escape the frigid Montreal air.

Our family and our friends, the ones still living, and those who have gone, are there.  In ornaments hand made and store bought, given in love and accepted with gratitude.

Our tree is perfect because it reminds us of what we have and what we’ve shared. When the Boy was small, the bedtime ritual once the tree went up, was to turn off all the lights, save the ones on the tree, and then the three of us sat together and admired the tree.  My husband and I still do this some nights, though the Boy is gone to a place of his own.  We sit sometimes, in the glow of the lights, nostalgic as parents of grown children often are.  And, even in that there is perfection.

We are blessed.

May you all be, as well.

While my heart gently sings

The Boy is home.  Which is, in itself, a joyous event, but he is also playing the piano in the den.  The sun is bright, near-white from the frigid air outside, but slanting through the window it brings in only warmth that spills across the room. The music rides the sun’s coattails and radiates through the entire house.

What more could one wish for in life than this?

The boy plays, my heart sings. . . .

The Boy plays, and my heart sings. . . .

We are all contributing to the meal today.  My husband is doing the mashed potatoes because no one mashes potatoes like him.  The Boy is giving us his version of mac-n-cheese.  I’m doing the roast and the vegetables.  I’ve made brownies for dessert, extra dark and extra fudgey.   It’s all about easy-peasy today.  And togetherness.

There are no pilgrim hats or cornucopias overflowing with fruit on our table.  I didn’t make a pie.  We are a small group, the three of us, and we are not big eaters.  This year we’re shooting for something more intangible than mountains of food.  Something to fill our spirits rather than our bellies (though our bellies will do well enough). The cherry on the top of our day will be when we settle in to our comfy living room later and listen while the Boy reads aloud the last 50 or so pages of Fahrenheit 451 because I haven’t managed to finish reading it yet, and it’s time.  It is most definitely time.

Oh, that we were all wealthy in love and good will.  That everyone could be kind.  For the wonderful people I am blessed to love and care about (and there are a LOT of you out there) I wish you all that and more.  I wish you peace and gratitude wherever you may be.  Here’s to filling your souls to overflowing.

Because it’s time.