Monday, February 28, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Rest assured, Betty knows how to rock a fashionable outfit. When Betty leaves for work in the morning, even the crows atop of roof stop and admire the snazzy jacket, pants, and coordinating shirt she has placed upon her body.
“Yeah, Betty! Lookin’ good, Betty!” they say in crow language as they nod their glossy black necks in approval.
Each evening I come home in the same natty outfit I left the house in, pick up the mail and enter the front door. To the outside world, a well-dressed, respectable person resides within this house. People walking by smile, envisioning me sitting down to a pot of tea and a crossword puzzle, still in my sophisticated outfit after a hard day of work
However, the harsh reality is, that in a scene reminiscent of the board game “Mystery Date,” anyone coming to the door even five minutes later would gasp in surprise, astonishment, and a tad bit of horror.
Because when I come home, I immediately take off those work clothes, and I look in my closet for something to wear around the house. I look past all the cute tops and sweaters I have purchased expressly for wearing after work.
Instead, I dig around for the object of my desire.
I am a woman who, when offered a fine meal in a five-star restaurant, declines and searches instead for the old burrito she knows is somewhere in her refrigerator. There in my closet, I search. I scan the floor and at last, I see it: the torn, the ragged, the stained red sweatshirt that I love so much.
I ignore all the healthy clothing choices and slip this bad boy on over my body.
Immediately, I revel in the sheer joy this old, heavy cotton bag with ripped sleeves gives me.
My clothing drug of choice.
Yeah, baby. I’m feeling good.
Add a pair of jeans: from natty to ratty in five minutes flat.
(Sometimes I leave my earrings and necklace on, just for that extra bit o' glamour.)
Time after time, I have vowed to stop wearing sweatshirt. It belongs in the trash. I know that. Many times I have stood in the garage with it in my hand, hovering over the ragbag, trying to convince myself to just let it drop.
Once, I even forced myself to paint in it, thinking that splatters of paint would convince me to let it go. Nope. Years of reading those lying tags on expensive sweaters paid off. “The variations in the weave and dye of this garment should not be considered flaws, but enhancements to the natural fibers of which this fine piece of clothing is created.” Ah yes! I finally understood! Through my glazed eyes, the paint stains actually DID add to the beauty and sheer authenticity of the sweatshirt.
What is it that draws me back to this worn-out, rag-tag sad excuse for a sweatshirt? I don’t even remember where I got it. It was not especially expensive. It has no insignia on it that makes me nostalgic.
Is its effect Pavlovian? Does the donning of this sweatshirt signal that I am home, safe, unencumbered by the demands of the outside world? Since there are many nights that I sleep in it, does wearing it bathe my brain in thoughts of peaceful sleep? (Poor HOB! This is my version of sexy lingerie. I may have ruined him for his next wife.)
I know that if HOB or my children were hanging around the house in the same type of item of clothing, I would harass and annoy them to no end. I would give them lectures on self-respect and dignity. I might even go so far as to hide the item of clothing. (As I did as a favor for HOB when his mother sent him that shirt that made him look like an Easter egg.) AND I would never let them out of the house something that ragged looking.
Now, before you get the mental picture of me trudging through the frozen food section of the grocery store in my sweatshirt, placing a large plastic bag of generic hash browns in my cart, and being stared at and pitied by all those around, let me tell you that I DO take it off if I need to go to the store, or over to a friend's house.
However, I have no problem buzzing around the neighborhood on my morning and evening walks in it. My justification of this behavior varies day to day, but generally I choose from this handy menu of thoughts:
A.) I walk so incredibly fast, no human eye can track my movements, and therefore no ordinary retina can focus on the torn sleeves and frayed neckline of my sweatshirt.
B.) Ratty exercise wear indicates an intense dedication to sport. People will admire my passion. My sweatshirt connotes that I have no time to think of fashion. Instead, it sends the message that I am in training for some future incredibly athletic event.
C.) My sweatshirt grants me the superpower of invisibility when out walking. (This one is my favorite and most often used.)
One of the sleeves is now hanging by a thread. I know that when that frays and breaks, that will be my signal to give it up. It will be time. I will move on. Right? I will not think of using safety pins, or even sewing it back on with honest-to-goodness needle and thread.
I’ll know when it’s time to give it up.
Really, I will.
So, my dear readers, do you have similar clothing quirks? Do you have pieces of clothing that you know you probably shouldn’t wear but do?
Gather around me, my support group.
Soothe me with tales of your shabby, your ripped, your stained clothing, yearning to be worn.
Tell me about the sweater with the large cat head on it.
Does the cat have jeweled eyes?
One or two?
Tell me all about it.
Leave out no detail.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
How I found them in a vein beside the railroad,
A bumble-bee fumbling for a foothold
While the poppies' petals flagged beneath his boot.
I brought three poppies home and two buds still sheathed.
I amputated them above the root. They lived on artlessly
Beside the window for a while, blazing orange, bearing me
No malice. Each four-fanned surface opened
To the light. They were bright as any orange grove.
I watched them day and night stretch open and tuck shut
With no roots to grip, like laboratory frogs' legs twitching
Or like red beheaded hens still hopping on sheer nerves.
On the third afternoon one bud tore off its green glove
And burst out brazen as Baby New Year.
Two other poppies dropped their petals, leaving four
Scribbly yellow streamers on a purple-brimmed and green
Conical cadaver like a New Year's hat.
I'd meant to celebrate with them, but they seemed
So suddenly tired, these aging ladies in crocheted
Shawl leaves. They'd once been golden as the streets
Of heaven, now they were as hollow.
They couldn't pull together for a last good-bye.
I had outlived them and had only their letters to read,
Fallen around the vase, saying they were sorry.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Betty loves her students.
*(In this case, we go to definition #4)
1. one of a numerous class of lesser deities of mythology, conceived of as beautiful maidens inhabiting the sea, rivers, woods, trees, mountains, meadows, etc., and frequently mentioned as attending a superior deity.
2. a beautiful or graceful young woman.
3. a maiden.
4. the young of an insect that undergoes incomplete metamorphosis.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
As many of you know, HOB’s father recently passed away. HOB was so touched by all the people who reached out with messages to him. He was amazed each time someone sent a card of condolence.
When I was younger I kind of pooh-poohed the idea of cards. I figured that in the overwhelming face of death, a $2.95 card from me would do little to ease someone’s suffering. I would send sympathy cards to close friends and family, maybe, but I never really thought of sending them to co-workers, or neighbors. In a way I thought they would think I was being ghoulish or latching on to their sorrow in a way I had no right to latch on.
All that changed when I joined the Card Club after my own father passed away.
I was unable to go to the funeral since I was traveling in Europe at the time. I remember getting home and finding cards in my mailbox from friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and co-workers.
That’s what I saw when I really looked at the cards that had been sent after HOB’s father’s death.
Welcome to the Card Club.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
My mind filled with all the things I had to accomplish. I had paragraphs to grade, e-mails to answer, lessons to plan, data from last semester to total up and get in, and I had a batch of essays I needed to go through and mark thoroughly. I hustled around, threw my briefcase into the car and drove to school, plagued with the list of things to do circling in my brain like a loop tape.
I got to campus, and started in. I was going to be a machine. I was going to get things done. I would focus, concentrate. I would conquer the pile of papers that sat before me. I shook my fist towards the heavens a la Scarlett. As God as my witness, I’d have an empty desk by nightfall. This was my one and only goal.
I worked for about ten minutes when there was a knock at my door. I spun around, ready to dispatch the intruder. There stood a student I hadn’t seen much of lately. He had come to ask to make up his missed assignments. Teacher Betty does not allow late work unless students let her know ahead of time they will be out of class. Still, I thought, I’d give him the handouts I had distributed in class and get him on his way. It would take five minutes at the most and then I would be back to my Very Important Work.
He sat on my couch and I started yammering on about how he had missed an entire section on organization, and it was up to him to get caught up with the material.
As I was yapping away with my Teacher Talk, I caught a glimpse of something in his face that made me stop. He was nodding and accepting the papers I was giving him, but there was a look of pain in his eyes that had nothing to do with missing the class and the work.
I have taught at community college long enough to know that our students are complicated. Their lives are complicated. Along with the traditional students are the nontraditional. The student who looks sleepy in the back row has not been out partying all night. He has been working in the strawberry fields since 6:00 a.m. and comes to class when he gets off at 2:00 p.m. The single mom is not missing my class because she is home watching TV. She is waiting in line at the free clinic for help for a sick child. My student who wears the tracking bracelet is trying hard to make a new life for himself by attending college for the first time and is finding it takes courage to fit into this new landscape and not fall back on his old ways.
I put the handouts aside, and asked him why he had been absent.
Now, maybe it’s because in English class we deal with words, with narratives, and with the emotions that come with them, but I’d be willing to bet that students feel more comfortable talking with their English teachers than, say, their chemistry or math teachers.
His story came out. It was a painful one and he needed to talk. He needed someone to listen. I couldn’t do much to help his situation, but I could listen and be supportive of him. I could let him know that he wasn’t alone and things would eventually get better.
After my student left my office, I glanced at the clock. Thirty minutes had passed by and yet, I suddenly felt like I had enough time to do all the things I needed to do. I looked at the pile of papers on my desk and I knew I’d get them all done in due time.
The anxiety I had worn like a heavy cape all morning had slipped off my shoulders. I felt a peacefulness and calm come over me.
It made me think. How many other times I had plowed ahead with my own agenda, blind to the opportunities that life presented to me to help a fellow human being?
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
particles of ocean salt,
for the infinite,
For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
from equator to pole.
My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
She was the family dog, and even though there were promises to help walk her and feed her, you can guess to whom that responsibility fell. She and I walked miles and miles together—every morning and every evening, the same route, the same time.
When I worked in the yard, she came to sit beside me. In the house, she followed me from room to room, always settling down next to me. All those times I cooked for hungry boys in the kitchen, she was right there. When HOB traveled out of town on business, Maddie stayed with me, making me feel safe and keeping me company. Needless to say, we’ve had some good talks over the years.
One night I went to bed and she flopped on her bed in the darkened bedroom. I suddenly remembered something I needed in the living room and without turning on the lights, I went out to get it. On the way, I tripped over an ottoman and went down hard. I thought surely I had broken a rib or two and struggled to try and get up, but lay back down instead, trying hard not to cry. I called out to HOB but he was in his office with the door shut. Both boys were in their bedrooms asleep. A minute passed and then in the quiet dark of the night, I heard the steady sounds of Maddie’s toenails as she made her way across the hard living room floor. She stood beside me and waited for me the get up. When I did, she wagged her tail. Then she turned and I followed her back to the bedroom. She waited for me to climb into bed and then she went back to her own.
Maddie has slowed down considerably in the past year or so. Our regular walks are a thing of the past. She sleeps a lot more. She stays on her bed more. There are times she doesn’t make it completely out the door to do her business. Sometimes when I come home, she does not wake up when the garage door opens and yet, when she finally does awaken and sees me, her eyes light up and the tail begins to wag.
This, as anyone can plainly see, is her love note to us.
The doctor got there and recognized the symptoms immediately. It was not a stroke. It was geriatric vestibular syndrome—an inner ear problem that could possibly be treated. He said considering her age and other problems, he could put her down, but he needed us to know that this syndrome could be treated if we were willing to do so.
So our girl is still here, but this last scare made me realize my attachment for this dog goes deeper than the normal love I have for animals.