Monday, June 27, 2016

Today...

Today

The solitary practice of making tea by the cup…
A prelude to our late morning phone calls
Started when your girls were in diapers and down for naps
You always began with a joke or a funny story
Our natter quickly turning to the world beyond our doors or
Some book neither of us could put down
Your treks into the desert, telescope in hand
Looking for the perfect night’s sky, filled notebooks
Now in a box, closeted in a city apartment, far from the landscape you adored

I sip my tea alone, the only sound

Your voice in my head


This poem commemorates the passing of my friend Pauline two years ago this week. Knowing someone from the ages of seventeen to fifty-three is a rare privilege, and I think of her and the family that included me often.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

One of you said I needed a dog...

In response to my last family-food related post, one of my readers mentioned that I needed a dog to feed food that I disliked. In fact, there were only a couple of things that as a kid I would not eat. I could tolerate the infrequent piece of liver but could not abide the old Army version of creamed chip beef on toast that sometimes made its way to the table. This particular item in fact induced gagging. Under such circumstances, one might think a reasonable adult would decide in favor of giving a kid something else entirely.

Not so my mother, who assumed I think, that I was doing so simply to frustrate her. This led to the same showdown mentality that was written of previously. I was forced to try and consume what is aptly termed SOS or face further punishment, as if gagging over one's food was not already punishment enough. On this occasion, however, stepfather stepped in quickly. Although I went to bed without any further dinner, I was also spared from reprisal. The incident was never discussed and I was never served that item again. I doubt a dog would have been helpful.

There are only two dogs in my childhood. The first, a black standard poodle named Barron, beloved of stepfather, was not long in our house before being stolen, and though reported missing, was never found. The second, a miniature poodle puppy which I called Jacques. Part of a litter birthed by a neighbor's dog, Jacques too had a short and not too sweet life in our home.

When informed that I wanted a dog, the parents conspired and told me that if I could beg the seventy-five dollar price tag from my frugal grandparents, I could get one of the neighbor's puppies. Why we did not simply adopt a pound puppy, I have no idea. While the grandparents knew I had been put up to the task of extortion, they were none too happy with my parents but as my birthday was fast approaching, capitulated.

A few weeks later, the dog arrived, along with a stern warning that all duties associated with his care were mine and mine alone. The cat, which my mother adored, was not pleased with this arrangement, and frankly, beyond feeding and walking the dog, I had no idea what to do with a puppy. Just thirteen, I took him outside at every opportunity, let him sleep in my bed, talked to him and tried my best to keep him away from the parents. The only problem with this plan was the hours spent at school or away from the house.

Dislike of being alone led to barking and crying which bothered the neighbors. Developing teeth meant a penchant for chewing, which he did with puppy enthusiasm. Receiving no adult guidance on how to curb the destruction accompanying this behavior, I closed him in my room, hoping that being in familiar surroundings would calm him. He then chewed a library book and two school books which my parents unhappily replaced. After using my meager allowance to purchase a chew toy which he destroyed within a day, stepfather declared the dog a problem and the die was cast. Each infraction was noted with increasing irritation, which I now believe the dog felt and reacted to first by hiding and then trying every tactic to escape.

Such was the situation the day I arrived home from school to find him in stepfather's closet. Having left him in my room before setting off for school, the only explanation for his new location was that my room had been cleaned and Jacques had wandered out without being noticed. Equally unnoticed until I found him was the expensive Florsheim shoe he had chewed while ensconced in the closet.

Predictably, stepfather returned home from work and seeing his shoe, yelled both at me and the dog. He then tied the shoe which was roughly the length of Jacques, around the dog's neck and forced the dog to carry this around for an entire night and day, which eventually hurt the dog's neck and led to more destructive behavior. So pleased was stepfather with himself for devising this punishment that he presented me with snapshots of the dog dragging his shoe around. I have one in an album. An animal lover by nature, I found the entire episode horrible. This was confirmed when years later I was talking with a dog trainer and then a vet who said that charges of animal abuse could arise from this. By then, of course both stepfather and the dog were dead, neither from old age. One last daring escape outdoors and bad timing led to the dog being hit by a car driven by a woman my mother knew. She was distraught, and I was traumatized, both by the dog's misfortune and parental anger. I have never gotten another dog...
Until Next Time...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Is there any good news today?

Senators staging sit-ins to force other legislators to adopt commonsense and necessary gun control measures following a failed filibuster...Bernie Sanders conceding he isn't likely to win the Democratic nomination in a game that has been fixed since the beginning...We are a rigged and money-ridden two-party system that isn't working except for politicians and while a large number of voters are slowly awakening to this fact and choosing to go with third parties such as the Green Party or Libertarians, for good or ill, a wide swath of our voting populace is plainly stupid.

Is there any good news out there today? If this bores you, you can always go read the replies to the comments from the previous post...Did any of you know that there is a smart, progressive woman running for president here? Her initials are not HRC and she isn't beholden to every corporate lobbyist in the land or under investigation for anything untoward...

Until Next time...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What Would You Call This???

My weekly foray into the depths of Aldi is always an adventure. Reminiscent of the commissary of my youth, it carries aisles of basic items and then so-called special buys, many of which are touted as frozen delicacies. Thus did I find myself tempted by kale and spinach lasagna with goat cheese, which like many frozen or processed foods, utterly failed in its appeal, though it did spark several memories for me.

Food misadventures began early in life. I very clearly remember the day my mother and I were grocery shopping and, gazing down the seemingly endless rows of jars, cans and boxes which preceded actual produce, I asked her why she did not cook from scratch. Looking down from her five foot eight height, feet clad in spectator heels and still dressed for work, she responded with, "they don't sell scratch in stores, and one of us has a job."
I was about four at the time and we had just moved from my grandparents house to our own apartment. 

I twisted nervously in the cart and then said, "Nana cooks from scratch and she works, too." That launched the verbal equivalent of World War III, complete with hissing as my mother tried vainly to keep her temper in check and appear publicly civil while telling me off. The end of the incident involved her ordering me to pick four frozen pot pies, my dinners for the rest of the week. New to grocery freezers, these represented the ultimate in convenience and luxury and tasted like something one would not give a dog. 

By the time the last one was placed in front of me, I absolutely loathed the over salted, gooey filling, could not abide the peas and carrots and detested the soggy bottom. Consequently, I found myself staring at the small aluminum pan with a mix of dread and stubborn determination while under the glaring eyes of a twenty-four-year-old mom who simply wanted me to eat so she could put me to bed and deal with a stack of student papers on the other side of our kitchen table. When pleading failed, I drank an entire glass of milk and made for the bathroom, with half the pot pie ensconced in a paper napkin.

The next day, after discovering a toilet clog, and going out to purchase a plunger, my mother appeared in my bedroom threatening me with bodily harm if I ever did anything like that again. To underscore her point, I received a well aimed swat to my backside. I have never again eaten that brand of pot pie. It would not have taken a rocket scientist to figure out that I missed the familiarity and routine of life at my grandparents or that I found that particular food item unappealing texturally, both of which while easy to discern, were ignored.

My mother did not raise a picky eater, and she did know how to cook. Indeed, she was better at it than a lot of people I've since encountered. Her burgeoning social schedule at the time, however, often took precedence over any form of cookery and I ended up eating a wide range of frozen or canned foods until I learned how to make a sandwich and clean up after myself, something I was nearly always willing to do if she were out for the evening.

As an eight-year-old, I was often left alone in the kitchen and one day decided to try and cook eggs. Having watched my mother do this, I was extremely happy when my scrambled eggs were edible. By dinner time, I thought an omelette would be nice but lacking the understanding of how to make one, I burnt an entire pan of eggs and bacon and rendered our small kitchen a smokey mess. In a rage, my mother ran in from her bedroom, turned off the stove, put the pan and its blackened contents in the fridge and told me I could eat what I'd wasted in the morning.

I don't remember eating dinner that night after she'd departed for a date, but she was as good as her word. In the morning I faced down blackened, cold stuck-to-the-plate eggs and almost gagged until the man who was to become my stepfather came for a visit and intervened, clearing the mess and taking me out for a drive. I have never forgotten this and it would not be the last time I would garner his intervention. While I understand the rage and subsequent behavior to be child abuse, I've spent a lifetime attempting to piece together why anger and control were always an issue for someone who when in the public eye could appear well mannered, restrained and drop dead gorgeous. While incidents such as this did not happen everyday, they were frequent enough that they left their mark. 

Until Next Time...


Monday, June 13, 2016

Not Many Smiles Here Today...



The pets are the only things making me smile today...

My adored cats--Phoebe and Jacob---mean the world to me. They are foundlings, having both found and set their cap on this very grateful human.

Jacob, the handsome black and white tux, is a gentleman. Affectionate and sociable, he spent months as an orphan before I brought him home on my birthday almost eleven years ago. He was an adult then, and though miffed at his inclusion in our family, Phoebe now accepts him as he does her. With one well-aimed swipe of his front paw, he chose me as the one to free him from the confines of an orphan's cage, the one with whom to sleep, and worth guarding. His two favorite places are the bed and my lap.
Once a cat selects a human, the human has little choice. The love and faith of a cat isn't easily bestowed, particularly if the cat has been abused, orphaned or left to its own devices. Jacob  loves to cuddle and play and is a fanatic for unattended salad greens.
Phoebe is only one year older but has always been the quietest. She sleeps with some portion of her body virtually glued to some part of my person, trills and "talks" to me at every opportunity but disappears in fear of loud noises or other people like a flash. She loves to dive for bits of paper when alone with me and enjoys sleeping on my pillow when I am not in bed. Her other preferred spot is our settee.

Both have health problems and though now elderly and indoor, developed and carry feline herpes virus, a highly contagious airborne disease that remains in the  elderly cat's body after initial exposure. Happily, this duo hasn't had an outbreak in months. They eat well and chase each other around the apartment with an abandon I often envy.

Their lives spared,Jacob and Phoebe provide hours of fun and lend an element of grace and comfort to our small abode. I believe that we were gifts given to each other, and I wish that humans had more respect for the animals and other life forms on this whirling planet we call home.

Until Next Time...

Friday, June 3, 2016

Bothered...

Have you ever undertaken a project only to discover part way through that it isn't to your liking and needs to be re-done? So it is with the Will I have penned. I am deeply bothered by something but cannot put my finger on its source. Anyone who knows me in the non-digital world will also understand that not being able to suss out a problem quickly is not a situation common to me. I do not appreciate agitation as a growth opportunity and no, I am not afraid of death. Loss, it seems, has been a hallmark, in my life and the last few years have driven the point home.

The last month or so has seen me emerging from dreams of people and childhood adventures long past and attempting to discover what has happened to the individuals involved. Since I do not recall the majority of my dreams and most nights do not even sleep well, these incidents have been a bit disconcerting as I wonder what has triggered them.

 My childhood spent abroad, afforded me a range of experiences beyond those of most people I encounter but was far from rosy. Adolescence, though slightly less bumpy, saw me turn inward. To this day, I wonder whether the fights, taunts and bullying of my childhood, assumed to be a normal rite of passage by parents at the time, could have been stopped. The quiet, somewhat aloof exterior, combined with a dark and sarcastic humor that saw me into my twenties before finding the first of three highly competent therapists brings me embarrassment when I recall my younger years. A high school friend remembered me as kind while another childhood friend of longer standing tells me that I always seemed less a kid and more a mini adult. I'm not sure either is completely accurate but, as the only kid in my house and one who spent more time with adults than with children, I tended to be more self-contained. I also nearly always felt out of place, a situation exacerbated by parental issues and limitations it has taken me half a lifetime to understand.

The woman I've become loves animals more than people, prefers the quiet of my room and a good book to superficial chitchat though I appear to converse easily when necessary, is generous to a fault, feels like an afterthought to remaining family and rarely sees any of them. I've also discovered that there are some, both in my family and outside, that I genuinely dislike and while I keep things cordial, prompt exits are the order of the day. I find it ironic that a step sibling with whom I have greater connection than blood relations cannot act on my behalf to execute last wishes as the laws of this ill-named paradise prevent that...

Until Next Time...