For this author, creative endeavors have been sorely tested by motherhood. But also transformed, and in ways she wouldn’t have imagined – couldn’t have, without her life “rewritten” as it has been, by her children. So linger here, to read all things weaverly, writerly and motherly.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

A Mother and Daughter in an Emergency Room

My mother was hungry and thirsty; when she’d fallen that morning, she’d just woken up, so she never even got a cup of coffee before she was whisked away in an ambulance.


More than food or drink really, she wanted a comb. They’d loaded her into the ambulance as they found her, on the bedroom floor in a lavender nightgown, with not even shoes or time to grab her purse.


“How can you not carry a comb?” she asked me.


I’d arrived at the hospital just as they were finishing hooking her up to all the impressive beeping devices highlighting heart rhythms, pulse and who knows what else.


I don’t carry a comb, my hair too thick and curly for one, but I rummaged through my handbag anyway; I was grateful for the ordinariness of rummaging through all the messy compartments and pockets, as I was still trying to quell my inner shaking; driving the hour it takes to the hospital, I had done the deep breathing exercises I do whenever my mother presses her necklace emergency button to alert 911 because she has fallen and can’t get up, and I don’t know what kind of shape I will find her in.


She had no broken bones or even bruises, but she’d hit her head so we were waiting for her to be wheeled away for a CT scan.


She was quiet, watching me rummage, until she said what she says when she doesn’t care particularly for what I’m wearing: “Is that a new shirt?”


I bristled. You know that feeling, the one that starts as a teenager when you don’t want your mother commenting on what you wear, like the vinyl go-go boots I insisted on wearing in the 70s.


I welcomed the bristling. It was a feeling far more familiar and natural than the awkwardness of having to help her put on her shoes and even zip up her coat as I do my children.


She looked me all over. “Oh, a new skirt too...pretty. Aqua is a nice color on you. I’ve just never seen you in . . . what is that, lime green?


“Lime goes great with aqua,” I said, parroting the saleslady. I don’t know why I’d been shopping in the first place. I hate clothes shopping. Maybe it was just one of those days when I had so much on my to-do list, like finding someone to pave the buckling driveway and paint the peeling house, when I wasn’t making doctor appointments for my mother or trying to find someone to come in and help prepare her meals, that I decided to do nothing and go buy a lime-green shirt and aqua skirt.


I knew what she was thinking, what I thought too; lime was a god-awful color on me. I hated that I agreed with her. I loved that the hate-feeling was familiar.


Now that I was there and I could see that she was ok, the less familiar feeling of resentment set in; this was not the first time that I have had to grab the car keys and suddenly up and go, leaving this time just before going to a church, where I’d planned to wear my new summery varying-degrees-of-green outfit.


But as my mother has grown more feeble, as the simplest of tasks has become a challenge, I welcome the resentment; I wrap it around me like a cloak. A heavy and cumbersome cloak , but far more comfortable, and thus bearable, than the deep sadness that can pierce me – a grief, a razor-sharp hint of the terrible loss I will feel once she is gone. When she won’t be there to share my latest accomplishments, these days framed felted landscapes reminiscent of her paintings; I don’t remember when I didn’t first think to show her something new I had made, ever since I was a child and made the clay cats she still has on her bedroom shelf.


My mother smoothed out the hospital blanket. Those thin useless ones, except when they actually might heat one up for you. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I almost didn’t call you.”


I felt the cloak of resentment falling away, and I reached for it, to no avail. “Don’t ever not call me, Mom….”


“I don’t know what happened. I think I got up too fast….”


“No one’s balance is good on just waking up; maybe take a few minutes in bed before getting up….” We’re always looking for solutions to why her balance is deteriorating. “Maybe try your walker in the mornings.”


She hates the walker, relies primarily on her cane. I thought she might protest. She didn’t. “That’s a good idea…”


It’s nice when we actually agree on something that easily. There wasn’t the usual going back and forth, as when picking out new eyeglasses, I got so desperate for her to make a decision, I tried talking her into a pair of thick rose-tinted cat frames. She was smart enough just to walk out of the store.


We were on even ground now. We were in emergency-room-waiting mode, cut off from all normalcy, unable even to get cell phone reception. The new normal was not the one outside in 95-plus degree weather where people still had to stop at the hardware store to pick up citronella candles to ward off mosquitoes at their next barbecues. The new normal was when the beeping of all those impressive monitoring machines had become white noise.


“Why does everything take so long?” My mother began to complain again about being thirsty and hungry, and I reminded her that she can’t eat anything until after the CT scan.


She still longed for a comb. She started running her fingers through her hair, making it look worse.


“I’d get more attention if I didn’t look such a mess.” She tossed the blanket around. “At least I should hide my ugly old feet,” she said, in disgust and surprise at the toll old age has taken on her body. There’s a picture she’s been looking for, of when she was young woman, sitting astride a horse out west. She’s always liked to tell me about the thrill of riding down a mountain in a thunderstorm. The way she wants to be remembered by her grandchildren. The way she likes to remember herself, before she’d gotten to this point, where the arthritis in her arm can make it hard even to open a can of cat food.


I told her she wasn’t getting “attention” right away because on this 95-100 degree day, the emergency room was packed with Hamptons beach casualties, a lot of 20- somethings in bathing suits suffering from heatstroke or wounds; one sat with her foot bound up. Another as she was being wheeled past us , was asked by a nurse, “So what happened? You catch a bad wave?”


A couple of hours later, my mother’s CT scan looked normal, and she was allowed a tasteless turkey sandwich before being discharged.


I brought the car around, and she was wheeled out into the blasting heat. As I help her into the car, we both laughed at the yellow slipper socks they gave her so she wouldn’t have to go barefoot. A true lemon yellow, they clashed sharply with her nightgown. “Now who looks funny?” I said.


I still care deeply about what she thinks – I probably won’t wear the lime green shirt again. There are moments when I show her my latest weavings and my newest felted framed pieces, and there is that reprieve; we are back to who we always have been, momentarily safe in our more recognizable roles of mother and daughter, of the best friends we have always been. Not the kind of best friendship with an old high school or college friend, with whom I’d be more apt to share a deep hurt over a recent boyfriend breakup. But the kind based on unconditional love and deep pride, that even under the heaviest cloaks of resentment, are allowed to breathe. To remain steadfast.


When we got back to her house, we sat outside on her deck, and I brought out ice water.


“Oh, it feels cooler out here,” she said, looking happy for the first time that day, almost content.


I went inside to start her dinner, and something made me look back at her sitting alone out there. She was examining her right hand, the one stiff with arthritis. The one that gives her so much trouble opening a simple can. The one she’d been painting magnificent large landscapes with until it became too hard to even stretch a canvas. I watch her loneliness. I can see it. It’s in all the empty space surrounding her, the empty chairs, mine pushed out, my own glass left empty, as I’m now in a rush to get her settled, and her dinner prepared. Someone will be in to check on her and help her in the morning. And I need to get back on the road home.


Driving home from these crises, I’m often driving into a sunset. And I always think about how my mother would revel in seeing one of them. How she’d long to paint it. How her sensibilities have been such inspiration to me all my life, in all my own creative endeavors.


The sun is blazing red behind the trees, and I pray without words. I pray holding an image of my mother in my mind. At first, that image is of her in all her loneliness sitting out on the deck. And then I replace that one with another image, one I can hold more dear, when she was my strong mother who could keep me safe. When she’d sit at the dinner table and we played this game: I would stand at the end of the hall and run into her open arms, both of us singing “Wheeee!” in full love and pure delight of each other.



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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Finished Triangle-Loom Project

Now that you've seen a work-in-progress on the actual loom, here is one of the finished triangle projects. Versatile, it can be work as a cozy wrapped scarf, or shawl-like:







Monday, July 18, 2011

When to Tell the Difference Between Boys and Girls

I suppose I've been remiss in enlightening our boys about the difference between boys and girls. As a new mother, I invested in big-bound books on how to raise your child, from in-utero until age five. I've stopped buying those big-bound books. Motherhood has begun to feel intuitive. I can figure out on my own the how and when to discuss sexual differentiation – I didn’t realize I had to figure it out by the early ages of six and seven.

“They don’t know the difference?’

Kate was in midbite of a bagel.  We sat around her kitchen table. Some moms and I had gotten together at her house for a summer's day play date.

Another mom had asked if anyone cared whether her two-year-old daughter stripped down to go play with the others in the sprinklers, knowing we wouldn’t mind. I never would have a few years ago – that is, when my boys were of that age.

Now even I was taken aback by myself, as I said: “Well, I don’t know…Ryan and Kenny… ” I didn’t know what I was trying to say. But they did.

Lori, the mom of the two year old piped up, with an amused little smile on her face,  “So what do they think then? That we’re all somehow generic down there?”

By the mutual-mommy looks I got across the table cluttered with goldfish and the more adult snacks of olives and nuts, I clearly have been cloistering my boys. After all, I’ve never been a parent to shower with my children…one of the mothers confessed that her son even knew women were hairy down there.

The first time a question came up about male-female differences, was when we were buying the gerbils. When we got the gerbils home, Ryan asked, “Well, how do you know anyway, which is which, that they’re girls, not boys?”

I didn’t directly answer. I probably did what I do when I don’t know how to answer their big questions (usually ones that arise on long car trips, like how do refrigerators make things cold and who was the first to discover God):  I busy myself with stuff that needs tending to.  Picking up stray Legos, getting to that pile of breakfast dishes in the sink.

Maybe I’ve been overprotective. But in this screen-obsessed era, it is very hard to preserve even an iota of innocence.  I tried early on to hook our boys on Winnie the Pooh, but poor fumbling Pooh didn’t appeal as much as quick-witted Spiderman.

The realities of sex is an innocence I would like to preserve; I worry Ryan and Kenny will too quickly figure out why males and females actually are different; especially Ryan who is too good at piecing together things – actually, screwing them together, his car building sets that actually come with their own little screw drivers.

But on this hot summer day, there wasn’t much I could do about little naked Anna who wandered outside to where our boys were playing in the sprinkler. In their clothes.  

Ryan stopped in his tracks. He stared, not caring, or forgetting that it wasn’t polite to stare.

That night, appropriately at bath time, when the boys like to taunt each other and giggle about their “pee pees,” he pronounced, “Well, today was a totally gross day. Because here comes this little Anna girl who for WHO knows WHY decides to take off all her clothes.” They still like their bath toys, and he squirts a rubber turtle at himself. “Anyway, girls definitely don’t have wieners.”

I wish I knew where he picked that word up.

Ryan concluded with: “They have two butts instead. One in front and one in back.”

Well. Think about it. Not bad reasoning. I mean, if you've seen a naked two year old girl recently....

I busied myself. Scrubbing toothpaste off the bathroom counter. “I wish you guys would spit in the sink."

That had been my chance for a full revelation on sexual differentiation. I missed it. Rather, I skipped it. Maybe because I’m afraid one revelation will only lead to other revelations, such as there being no actual Santa or Tooth Fairy, those other bits of innocence I hold sacred.

As it turned out, I couldn’t escape entirely. A few days later, I was picking them up at camp, and on the way to the car, Kenny whispered something to Ryan that made him giggle.  I asked to be let in on the secret.

“Oh, nothing. I just saw a man naked. In a convertible.”

“Naked? You mean he had nothing on?” A pervert parked right outside their summer camp?!

“Well, he had pants on, but no shirt.”

They weren’t used to the idea of boys not having to wear shirts, as they’ve grown up on the beach wearing those sun guards. They still feel naked not wearing them.

I explained to them that shirtlessness was ok. For boys that is, not so much for girls.

“Because girls have more private parts,” Ryan said. He’d figured out what a bra was, after I missed tossing one into the hamper, and he discovered "the two cup things" lying on the bathroom floor.

“Besides that second butt, I mean.”

We’re in the car. I look at him in the rearview mirror. “Well, it’s not exactly a butt.”

“Then what is it?” Kenny asked. The one who is most impatient to get at the heart of an issue.

I thought about telling them the truth in the review mirror.

I turned around to face them. I introduced them to the actual anatomical, sexually weighted terms.

Kenny gaped at me. “So girls have a ‘gina?”

I started the car. “That’s it.” And before Ryan could ask me more about the p---s word (am I allowed to use these words on Blogger?), I was going to change the subject, ask them about their morning of camp, blah, blah, blah.

To my relief and surprise, neither asked anything more. I didn’t have to change the subject or busy myself. They’d suddenly lost utter interest. They were far more interested in showing me the little plastic animal prizes they won at camp, and relating the dramatic episode of someone throwing up his blue ice pop in the bushes. 


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Latest Triangles!




Here's a triangle from my latest triangle wrap. This is the first time I've tried combining a couple of different textured yarns; Angel Hair and the deep blue is a Boucle:



Off the loom (And pre-blocking)!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy Ending to the Petless Saga

With all my ruminations on death, I’ve left our pet saga to dangle in the wind. I left off with our having finally picked out two boy gerbils, and my having to leave them with Carol at the pet store until I could pick them up the following Monday.

I asked Carol again to please confirm that they were of the same sex; did you know that gerbils can start breeding at the tender age of two months, and produce a litter as often as every month???

She grabbed one, then the other, peered at their tiny tooshies and confirmed, ‘Yup girl, and girl.”

“Girls?” This was a mistake! “We picked out boys.”

Carol looked utterly annoyed. She stuttered loudly,  “You finally just TTTTTTT…OLD them they were boys.”

She could have been right. Ryan and Kenny had been so indecisive, pointing at this gerbil then that gerbil scurrying madly around the tank, until I’d grown impatient and told them to just pick one. And Carol too, I knew, had grown impatient (to piece this whole story together, you might have to refer back to those older pet saga posts).

We’d reached a point where we just had to pick two, any two. As long as the two were both boys…that much Kenny and Ryan agreed upon. No girls. Yuck.

So driving home with the girl gerbils beside me in their tank, standing on their hind legs, front paws held together in prayer or utter alarm, I contemplated what to do. Maybe I just wouldn’t tell Ryan and Kenny the horrific truth, that their new pets were actually female.  In fact, Kenny had first picked out one I liked, a pretty brown and white one, but when he found out it was a girl, he didn’t want it. He settled on the black and white one which we understood to be a boy. Which now I understood to be a girl.

The boys both have several girls in school that they are buddies with. Who even enjoy an occasional sword fight in our yard. On the other hand,  Ryan and Kenny both have vowed never to marry because then they’d have to kiss a girl.  Frankly, at their tender ages of six and seven, I’m pretty ok with that. But when a girl tried to take Ryan’s hand one day walking into school, and he shook her off as if she were sticky, I felt badly for our female lot….

Then I thought: What the heck is wrong with GIRLS! We need some females under our roof! I was tired of the boy pack, the superhero play that I couldn’t participate in because I didn’t want Superman, Batman and Spiderman to fight all the bad guys. I wanted them to have a tea party.

I thought I’d break the horrific news in the car, on their way home from school; Ryan and Kenny were super excited to see their new pets which were waiting for them in the 10-gallon tank in the playroom.

If I told them in the car, I could imagine the frumpy faces I would see in my rearview mirror. Their confused, annoyed silence.

I waited until we were home and actually peering at the gerbils in their tank, as they chewed on paper towel rolls.  

“They’re so cuuuuute!” Ryan cooed.

I took one out for them to pet, for a quick efficient bonding.

Kenny grinned. “He’s really soft! Like a chick!”

Then I told them.

I had rightly anticipated their looks of horror.

In unison:  “They’re GIRLS?”

“What is wrong with girls?”

“I wanted a boy,” Kenny whined. “I picked out a boy. Boch is a boy.”

They’d also already picked out names. Boy names. Boch was the name of Kenny’s best friend’s dog. Which was a boy.

“Boch is a girl,” I proclaimed, as if at podium. “So you’ll have to pick out a girl name. Deal with it.”

Kenny pouted. Deeply. Chin in neck.

I stared them both down. “MOMMY is a girl.”

They looked at their feet. What could they say?

They looked back at the tank. Ryan gazed at the busy little gerbils, leaning his chin on his hand. “Well…They are still cute…”
Ryan had named his Bat since he’d picked out a black gerbil and his favorite animal was a bat. Ryan was able to come up with Rosey for his own gerbil.

Kenny refused to pick out a girl’s name. He wanted Boch. Not sure what Boch is, maybe unisex, but it sounded too male to me.

I suggested Bonnie.

“Boch. Boch is her first name, Bochy her last. Boch Bochy.”

So there you have it. Them. In their playpen:
 Here’ s Rosey:


And Boch (with a soft c):

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Picnic in a Cemetery

I called my husband to see if he could pick up a prescription from CVS on his way home. I thought he was still on the road, doing his Saturday morning errands.

“I’m with Ted now," he answered.

Ted – My husband was visiting his grave again.

Can you believe a friend of mine can’t get cell phone reception in her Brooklyn apartment, but my husband can out in the middle of a vast cemetery?

Later, he told me that he wasn’t the only one who’d had his cell phone ring. The family of Ted’s gravesite neighbor was visiting their mother, and the daughter’s phone too had rung. Something about not to forget to pick up a shirt at the cleaners, and about when they’d meet for some afternoon engagement.  When she hung up, they’d all chatted about this and that, drinking their morning’s coffee and eating bagels and muffins.

When my husband first visited Ted, he'd brought him flowers. Making sure no one was around, he had talked out loud to Ted, angry at him for not seeing a doctor about why he had to be “sucking” on an inhaler, what his co-workers said he was doing two days before he dropped dead of the blood clot in his lungs.

My husband seems to really like this cemetery, "Like a condo for the dead." He told me about the garden sculptures, and that Ted was between two magnificent trees. Some graves have these little levers, and if you turn one, a vase will pop out of the ground to hold cut flowers.  He was most impressed that there was not a single clover to be had, and the grass seemed freshly mowed. My husband, who works hard all summer reseeding our own brown spots,is the first to notice a perfect lawn. 

Saturday, when he returned to the cemetery, perhaps he’d hoped to talk with Ted some more, as this seemed to be helping him cope with the reality of his best friend’s sudden death.  He also wanted to bring him the promised “proxy” bagel that he would eat for him.

What he discovered was that on a weekend, the cemetery is like a picnic ground – everyone else seemed to have the same idea, to have their morning coffee there, even bring a whole breakfast. The garbage cans were already full of paper cups, bags, etc.

He liked that people seemed to come not to pray, not to contemplate their deceased loved ones, but just to spend an ordinary moment with them,  even if that meant talking on cell phones. “Ask me a week ago, I would have said something different,” he told me, never having even visited his own father’s grave, a cemetery over. Before returning to see Ted, he’d stopped over there for a visit, and to bring flowers.

I’ve never been back to visit my own father’s grave. Not sure why, really.  Maybe because his cemetery is so large, I could imagine never finding him, even with a map. Or maybe because I’ve never thought of my father as really being “there.”  He is wherever I need him to be, in the sound of waves crashing on a beach, as he had loved the ocean.

Still. when my grief was fresh, I'd planted a small tree in the woods behind our house, as a remembrance to him. I would visit that tree regularly, and it was a way to compartmentalize my grief. Maybe that’s true for my husband, as he navigates this terrain of his own fresh loss; he is able “to get some work done” when he visits his friend’s grave, then perhaps better focus on the details of his own daily life, once he leaves. But leaving is perhaps not so hard, as he knows he can always return, if just for a cup of coffee and a bagel.






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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Latest Weaving Project

With the trauma of our recent loss, (If you revel in death posts, see riveting ruminative ones below), it has been hard to focus on my next show. But here's one piece on the triangle loom. I'll do three to be sewn together into a shawl:


Here's one finished triangle:  



The shawl/wrap design is versatile enough to be rolled up and worn as a cowl neck scarf. Hopefully I'll have pics up of the finished project one of these days.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Heaven?

I have a hard time with the idea of Heaven. It’s too much of a “place” that we check into on our last breath. Where there isn’t much to do, except walk circles as on a track.

I struggle with “Heaven” every time someone I love dies. Especially those who die suddenly, as my husband’s best friend did, last week. This morning, I actually was walking circles around a track, at a park where I take the boys to ride their scooters.

The boys scooted past me, around and around, and I kept walking, and working my brain to fit together puzzle pieces – life pieces that now have to fit into those of death. Of sudden cessation; a human life is far too solidified in emotion, memories, love, and deep ties to others, to dissipate on that last breath. Ted must have been sitting at his desk, settling down with a morning coffee, when the embolism struck. By the way he fell, he had died before he hit the floor. A stilling of life so sudden, it is barely, just so barely, comprehendible.

So there was the wake, and the burial, my husband then had to get back to work, and I packed up the kids to go visit Gramma.  We while away the mornings at this park, where life continues, amazingly, unabated. Kids shoot basketballs.  A mother trails behind her toddler awkwardly steering a tricycle. My boys grin as they pass me on their scooters, my youngest flashing the gaping hole where he’s lost a tooth, and my heart breaks; as they age they gradually will unlearn this, how to live in the actual moment.

Walking those track circles is indeed repetitive, and I got tired of trying to piece together that life/death puzzle. So I started talking to my husband’s friend. Casually, the way I used to sitting across from him at our kitchen table.

In my rambling monologue, I asked Ted to send a sign to my husband when he goes to visit him today at his freshly dug grave.  Keith is struggling to make peace; he told me he can still see how Ted would even fold his newspaper. The other day, my son came to me with a yellow ladybug on his hand. She was struggling to pull in her wings, and we thought she was hurt. But then the ladybug took off across the playground.  In that burst of flight, I felt Ted. 

I do look for those signs. Rather, for that ubiquitous of the spirit:  how that solidity of life, in death, translates into an energy that prevails all around us. Even, if you look closely, in the tiny breeze just rippling those white flowers low to the grass, the ones we can too easily overlook as weeds. If there is a heaven then, maybe this is it. In the here. In the now.

At the cemetery, Keith left cut flowers, but said he could hear Ted saying, “Flowers? What am I going to do with f---- flowers?” Ted loved to dine, and he might have preferred takeout from a fine restaurant. Keith compromised; he told Ted he would return this weekend with a freshly baked bagel and coffee.

I worried a little. “You’re actually going to buy him a bagel?”

Keith said he would “proxy” a bagel, by eating it for him.

Ted, I guess, didn’t finally send him any signs. Unless you count the fact that Keith got locked into the cemetery, and had to chase down a security guard to get him out. But he did imagine that after he left, Ted bawled out the guard for latching the gates one minute too early, before actually closing time.












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