A friend of mine has a horse she calls Rohan. She also owns a tiny horse called Hobbit. (She’s a huge LOTR fan.) I took this photo of Rohan last month and then played around with it using various photo apps. The picture makes me think of Andy Warhol.
What does this have to do with anything? Nothing. I just liked the photo. It’s fun. It’s summer. And I’m not really here.
If you want to read something, though, here’s a VERY brief encapsulation of my entire life accompanied by 6 meaningful songs (plus a bonus track). I’m featured with the very cool Hippie Cahier over at Life in 6 Songs. It’s a fun read, plus there’s great music. What could be better than that on a summer’s day?
Cardiff Bay. In the dark, with the noise of howling wind and spitting seas at your back you stumble and fall face first on a braided rug of stones. Ah, well, lass. Rest awhile. No one will mind if you have a wee nap. There is time enough for repair when you wake.
While visiting the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, Wales last summer with friends, we passed this lovely woman. I wondered about her, she looked so peaceful where she was. Whoever she was, she looks the perfect object for this week’s photo challenge.
The boy in the photo above is my brother Tom. My mother named him Thomas, but we all called him Tommy. At seventeen he dubbed himself Tomas (pronounced toe-mas, accent on the second syllable). He took to wearing sunglasses and being quietly mysterious. It was the first of many personas he would try on for size while looking for how he fit in the world.
It wasn’t easy for him, figuring it out. He had a handicap from the start: Youngest of seven; born colicky, and needing a lot of soothing in a busy, boisterous family. He was often lost in the fray.
At two he fell through the heating vent in the bedroom floor, bumped accidentally by another brother as they jumped on my parents’ bed. He landed in the dining room below, barely missing the table. Astonishingly, other than scaring the hell out of us, and knocking the wind out of himself, he was fine.
When he was three, I dumped scalding hot food on him. Also an accident. A pressure cooker containing what was meant to be our dinner exploded when I tried to lift the lid. Tommy was standing by my side. I was blown backwards, while lava-hot meat and potatoes shot straight up from the pot and rained down on his back. I can’t remember how long he was in the hospital, but I do remember feeding him ice cream there. The scars never went away.
After that he managed to make it through the rest of his childhood and adolescence with only the usual bumps and scrapes. But he was always kind of quiet and a little aloof. He liked to climb trees where he would sit for hours looking out at the world. I asked him a few times what he thought about up there, but he wouldn’t tell me. I think he was dreaming what life could be.
Tommy lived with me three times in my life, beginning when he was Tomas at seventeen. I lived in Colorado then. He wanted to finish his last year in high school somewhere other than where he was born. We joined the local Y and worked out together, ran around the indoor track together, then went for donuts afterwards. He wore his sunglasses and skipped classes and shared falafel with the homeless guys who hung out in the park. At the end of the year he went back to my mother.
The next time he came to live with me I had just moved to Rhode Island. He slept in my basement and got a job as a cook in a nursing home within walking distance of my apartment. Eventually he met someone, and moved in with her. He got a job at Electric Boat and learned how to weld the seams of atomic submarines. In his down time he helped my husband and I build our house.
He had a baby with the woman he lived with, a boy who looked a lot like him. He took photos and put them in an album where he wrote things like from father to son and, a man with song and dance not to mention poiseacross the pages. Then the woman took the baby out of state and had Tom sign a paper relinquishing his paternal rights. He signed it because “it was what she wanted”, but it broke his heart to do so. He never saw his son again.
He tried to fill the hole by being a fabulous uncle to his nephews. He took them for walks and held their hands and watched cartoons with them. He listened to their dreams and understood.
The last time Tom lived with me his life had begun to unravel. By then he’d been diagnosed with a disease that would increasingly stiffen his spine and cause him pain. A few days after he moved in with us, he simply stopped going to work. He was tired of smacking his head on the insides of the submarines he was welding.
When I turned 35 Tom told me that I was old, being just 5 years from 40, as though 40 was near to the end of it all. He must have believed that, since he took himself out of the equation at 33. I’ve written about that choice in a more oblique form elsewhere on this blog.
Today is Tommy’s birthday. By his thinking he would be old. To the rest of my siblings–Amy, Kathy, Jaime, S.K.–and myself, he is still and will always be the youngest, the most fragile of us all who, nevertheless, keeps us buoyed and connected to one another by the memory of his life.
Happy Birthday, little brother. Tonight the light in my window shines for you.
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, 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.
As I am wont to do periodically, I have gone quiet. The truth is, that sometimes the world is too much with me. This is a time when I hunker down, take stock, recharge, rethink, re-plan. It used to worry me, these periods of introspection. Now we know so much more about things like depression and how introverts function, and I have learned to ride it out.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about, is that it’s time to clean out my house. And not just metaphorically. After twenty-six years living with the same man in the same house, we have accumulated a lot of stuff. After a while the stuff gets in my way.
I’m focusing first on my studio. The room that houses most of my books and all my art supplies. (I’d include a photo, except that it would embarrass me to no end to have you see how neglectful I’ve been — my family knows what I’m talking about, ask them.) It’s also the room where I exercise, write and do all my creative work, the room where my muse resides. She is not happy with the mess.
I’m on a mission here: Pay heed to my muse and get rid of a lot of stuff. So, if you haven’t heard from me in awhile, this is where I’m at.
I’ll be back momentarily. I promise. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this little tidbit. Something I found in one of the many notebooks I have scattered around the room like old shoes. I rarely date things, so I have no idea when I wrote this, nor do I remember what its purpose was, other than that I do have reoccurring dreams of flying.
In dreams, I fly, though there are no wings budding from my back like tender shoots that blossom on spring trees. No feathers fanning in orgasmic waves behind me. There are just my arms — flesh and blood and bone — to lift me, weightless as a dime while I circle above my oldest fears, childhood tormentors grown fat, and unrecognizable, wearing clown pants and floppy shoes.
And this . . . painted while I was in college and my house had hardly any stuff at all.
I’m joining forces with a throng of bloggers today in a shout out for Susie Lindau who is currently undergoing a double mastectomy in Colorado. (You can read about it here.) Susie is the queen of our blogging hearts, a hostess extraordinaire, who knows how to live large and live well. Plus, she throws the very best parties!
Today, and in days to come, she needs all the love, strength and best wishes we can all muster. That she is a formidable woman, strong enough to kick cancer’s ass on her own is without question. But, why go it alone when you can have friends along on this particular wild ride?
So, Susie — this one’s for you, my friend. You’ve got a mighty big group of friends who can’t wait to have you back where you belong: wild-riding, dancing, photo-bombing, juggling flower pots, and generally just being your joy-filled, cancer-free self again.
Right up front, I will tell you that this story is true. I should also warn you that it’s a little bitter-sweet.
When my brother Peter came into our lives my parents already had three girls. They longed for a son.
A couple of interesting points about this story: First, like all good men living in the area of the Adirondack Mountains, my father liked to hunt. Hunting season in those parts was a religion, sacred and holy; the woods, nature’s cathedral. The thing about my father was that he had never bagged a deer. He’d been hunting with plenty of other guys who had, but he’d never actually shot one on his own.
The second thing, is that shortly after the third girl was born, my father started growing a beard. It grew fast and bushy, and with a red hue that didn’t match the hair on his head at all. (Somewhere there’s a photograph of my dad at that time, sitting on my grandmother’s front porch, wearing an army style camouflage cap. He looked exactly like Fidel Castro.) My mother didn’t much like that beard. My father said he would shave when he got a son or a buck. Either one. Whichever came first.
The third point is that my mother is half Mohawk. She was born and spent the first decade or so of her life on the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve, which straddles the border of Canada and the US. We would often make the winding drive to visit aunts and uncles and cousins there. One day after a visit, on the return trip, the car held my parents, my sisters and myself, and a brand new brother, named Peter. He was 18 months old at the time.
The particulars of how it came to be that we brought him home are not important. What matters is that he was ours from that day on. I wasn’t very old then, but I do remember the car ride home — I remember Peter’s little face peaking over my mother’s shoulder, watching us and smiling. Oh, how I remember that smile.
My father did not get his buck that season (nor any season, ever). But he got his son, and true to his word, he shaved. Peter grew and thrived, we girls grew and thrived, and my mother went on to eventually have three more babies – all of them boys. And we were a rowdy raucous family of seven kids who were sometimes very close, and sometimes throwing things at one another.
Except for Peter. At least, the way I remember him, and I’m telling the story so you’ll have to take my word for it. If you happen to know or run into one of my siblings, they may tell the story differently. That’s the way families work.
Peter was a quieter kid than the rest of us, he was by nature more even-tempered. And always, he was quick to smile. He loved to hunt and fish, though he mostly used his hands for the latter – he was that patient and that quick. As a teenager he took up wrestling and was pretty good and quick at that. He was no push-over if really provoked. Somewhere in those teen years, people started calling him Puck.
He tried his hand at many things. He joined the Navy, hoping to travel, but that didn’t work out the way he planned. He got married and moved back to the Adirondack town where we grew up. He raised chickens for awhile, and for awhile he worked at the local paper mill. Eventually he and his wife moved to Erie, Pennsylvania where her family lived.
Today is an anniversary of sorts. Twenty-two years ago on a day like today, full of spring and glorious sunshine, I took my then two-year old son to the park, and later for the first ice cream cone of the season. The phone rang as I was leaving the house, but I paid it no mind. If it was important, whoever it was would call back. Turned out it was my sister, and call back she did.
Peter was thirty-four years old on the last night he went to sleep. A hemorrhagic tumor was the reason he didn’t wake up. Twenty-two years is a long time. Also, twenty-two years is no time at all. It’s one of life’s many conundrums.
I believe in stories with happy endings, or at least in which there is the possibility of something honest and good. In this story I once had a brother who possessed the kindest of hearts and a sweet smile. We called him Puck. He is with me still. And that is enough good for now.
My friend, Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom, hosts an I Don’t Like Monday Blog Hop. She’s invited me to join the party. The best thing about the invitation is, it’s not necessary to dislike Mondays. Which I don’t. In fact, I rather like Mondays. The way I look at it, Monday is a whole new beginning. A chance to start anew on those pesky things I didn’t finish the week before.
That’s why I’m almost always home on Monday. I try not to schedule appointments or errands for that day. I want my new beginning to be really new. Like having fresh dirt at the starting line in which to dig my heels. . .Get ready. . .Get set. . .Go!
So, because it’s Monday, and I’m busy being all new and getting stuff done, feel free to entertain yourself with this really cool video I stumbled across a few weeks ago. The Scared is scared. A senior project by Bianca Giaever. Music by Alpenglow. It’s a six-year-old’s imagination made manifest – word by wonderful word – in video. Worth every second of it’s 7:52 running time.
Welcome to Monday, people. This is guaranteed to put a smile on your face for the rest of the week. Trust me.