Archive for October, 2011

Lemon Peel

October 27, 2011

I woke up at 3 A.M.  Found an online,  chat-room for depressed people.  It was old school—scrolling lines of people’s chatter.  Once in a while someone would say, I am so sad.  Or I’m afraid of the future.  Or,  I can’t sleep.  I said,  I wrecked my life.

Mrhand said, Me too. I didn’t ask him how he wrecked his life, and he did not ask me. I’m having dinner with someone next week whose last name is Weck.  Earlier in the day, I emailed my husband and told him we were having dinner with Mrs. Wreck.  He corrected me.

Someone  in the chat room asked how old everyone was.  Maybe I was the oldest at 53, but perhaps there was one person that was 60. There were lots of young people, late teens and early twenties. It was easy to dismiss them, except, when I was young my mother was an alcoholic. My stepfather used to beat her, and my sister ran away from home.  Maybe these young people had there reasons.  Still I said,  If you are healthy and have people who love you, enjoy your life. (I am envious of the young. Also, feel stupid for wasting all that time when I was young being depressed.)

Mrhand said, that he had neither (health nor love).  He reconsidered, saying he did have a  couple of people (who loved him).  I said to hang on to that.  Then, I went to bed and slept until 8-8:30.   It helped somehow, talking to depressed people. You would think it would be depressing.

Today, was a pretty good day.  I went to Zumba-Gold, exercise for people ten years older than me, but I worked at it. Managed to break a sweat.  Later, met a retired couple at the movies to see, Toast, an entertaining film, if not exactly stellar. Yes, it made me hungry for toast.  But also for lemon meringue pie.  In the movie, this teenager concocts a perfect pie for his father.  His father wouldn’t touch it. His stepmother accused him of stealing her recipe.

My grandmother made amazing lemon meringue pie. I had at least one taste of her pie. I cannot remember the circumstances or why it was just a taste. She made one for my aunt and cousin, perhaps it was the pan scrapings. Of course she used fresh lemons. Lemon trees grew in Phoenix.  She baked me a pie before she left,  but ended up dropping it. She said she regretted not making me another one. She had the time.

A couple of years later, I canceled a visit.  I know how that feels now.  She lived alone.  She went shopping.  She waited in anticipation, a two-day cancellation notice  I had gotten a kidney infection and had two small children.   Just couldn’t make myself drive to another state. I probably would never see my grandmother again, and I knew it. I heard the disappointment in her voice, and anger.  Sometimes, I blame her for not baking that second pie. Then, figure I wasn’t worth it.

At the movie, my friend didn’t understand that the teen loved his father, even if his father didn’t taste the pie.  Even if he was a bastard. Even if the kid said he hated him. Every child wants his parents to love him/her.  Every child. Even if they are grandparents.  I heard an NPR story that claimed children did well in life according to how much their mother’s loved them.  Perhaps, that’s why I am so depressed. The boy on which the character in the movie was based, grew up to be a famous chef.  The mother, who had died, loved him.   He put lemon peel in his pie.


Earliest Memory–The Clothesline

October 18, 2011

Waiting for my mother to come home from the hospital. Will she come home? Our apple tree out the kitchen window. Bark streams under my fingers. My father’s boss voice on the phone. It’s a girl. My brother, Daniel’s tease, You’re not the princess anymore. The intruding pain. Cutting Bull Winkle from the Trix box, the thick cardboard and silver scissors. The cramp in my hand. But, smart gold brads hinge moose knees and elbows, make Bullwinkle move. A get well for my mother at the hospital. White drapes flutter in my bedroom. When will she come home? My 1960s dad spoons mustard into tuna fish sandwiches. Finally, mother, gentle for once. On the bed with her baby. The ruddy baby. Wonderful and awful. Her head—warm—fussy with mineral oil. Tiny fists and dark eyes. My brothers and I in a photograph, gathered on my parents’ bed. My hair drawn up in a ponytail. My brothers, kittens. My mother’s close-cropped hair, pastel shirt. White shorts. Or maybe I made them up, the white shorts. The pastel shirt. The photograph is long gone. But I remember the sheets, the clean clothesline smell.


October 11, 2011

My skin feels grimy at the end of the night in St. Louis. We moved to the city just six weeks ago. My husband and I are returning from an evening at a microbrewery. We pull up in front of our house. Like everyone else, we park on the street. Our two-car garage sits empty in the back. Sally, the neighborhood matriarch, hollers at me. We’ve got pizza! She’s sitting on a porch swing near a screen broadcasting the end of a Cardinals game. It’s 10:30 Friday night and half of the block is gathered on their lawn.
They are always, cooking in there, says one neighbor, swirling a glass of red wine, tilting it toward the house. They are always drinking too. Cans of Busch-lite or glasses of red box-wine. A family member presses a cold can into my palm even when I insist I don’t want one. Some of Sally’s kids or assorted relations, we haven’t figured out which, live on this street. They replace each other’s roofs and are remodeling Sally’s kitchen. The grandkids or neighbors ride bikes up and down the sidewalks. Recently, Sally has been working ten or twelve hour shifts at a doctor’s office that has added new practices, but no extra staff.
I am not sure what her husband does, a mammoth man anchoring down the couch or bench in front of the TV. Sally’s daughter, Mary, boasts that for the first time in her life she has moved up in the world. She swallows some wine from a glass and smiles. From waitress to dental receptionist. Her first full time job. She’s thirty-three. Mary wears glasses and a pageboy clipped by her sister-in-law. The front lawn is oily with varying degrees of intoxicated relatives. I think about my own daughters two thousand miles away in Seattle. Both are in graduate school, one is studying to be an architect, the other a microbiologist. Sally says she never imagined she be in this place, with a “real” job. I never imagined being in this place.
She complains too that she has to do the work of two people; she can’t always depend on a paycheck, but reiterates how grateful she is to have had this opportunity to be a receptionist. She’s looking for another job. “Everything happens for a reason,” she says smiling again. I invite Sally and Mary to tour my house. They ooze over everything, the old-fashioned spice chest and telephone cabinet. I cannot tell if it’s feigned or real. I wonder how they see my style. For one thing, when I had my wood floor redone, I used a water-based stain instead of the high-gloss polyurethane that Sally is using in her house. Sally whispers to my husband that my house looks like a showroom. Not a good thing. However, when we return to the living room, Sally lingers over a poster I’ve had framed and mounted above my fireplace. A girl, in sheer saffron robes, draped over a couch. She also notes my other piece of art, a highly popular Klimt. She pauses, rocks on her feet.. At last she says, they look like angels.
Then, out of left field, Sally notifies me she once earned a scholarship to the University of Hawaii. Explains she didn’t go because she was a daddy’s girl. Continues that she been a concert violinist and was offered a job with the symphony. I got married … had children, she says. I couldn’t travel. You make your choices.
I gulp down the last of my beer, think about the five different states I’ve lived in, the people on Sally’s front lawn. Before they go, Sally and Mary regale us with sloshy testimonials. They know Thomas is a minister, but I know they don’t have a clue about Unitarian beliefs. Sally laughs and says if she falls asleep before she finishes her prayers, the angels finish for her. Mary declares, with a look of astonishment, that she prays each morning in the shower. She is still wearing her dental uniform, almost like medical scrubs, even though it’s Friday night. Her teeth are crooked.

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