Friday, September 16, 2016

Fairy tales for Grown Ups

Once there was a woman who was really a crow, or perhaps a jackdaw.  She knew where you hid your gold rings, your freshly baked bread.  Darkling, darling, darkwing.  On bad days, she was all beak: sharp and full of worms.  What of avian games?  The balancing of sticks and sliding down on slick branches?  If she lost all her blue-black feathers, would she be trapped in human form? Her bones remain, simultaneously hollow and heavy.  There is a story hidden in her joints and tendons, one of flight and lodestone and shiny red berries.

 She will never be content to carry your messages.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


There is a certain scent to these places: warm juice, overheated rooms, baby powder and urine.  I often see a woman--her back perfectly straight, her gait surprisingly solid, just a hint of shuffle. She carries a baby doll. She diapers and changes it in the corners of the hallways, on the tables and bookshelves.  Sometimes she asks for help but cannot explain what kind of help she might need. There aren't very many men here.  My dad is one the few.  He is still tall and handsome at 76, but mildly disheveled.  He often looks just a little bit lost.  He used to love to dress for things: he had tartan vests, J. Peterman shirts, white wing tip shoes.  Now he wears only athletic pants and t-shirts.  They don't always match.

"It's good to see you," he will say.  Or sometimes (when I bring my husband) "look at all the people."

He is afraid of mirrors.  He believes there lurks within them an imposter.  A man who looks like him, who follows him everywhere and steals his shoes.

Once he took off his shoe and tried to beat his reflection with it, leaving herringbone track marks on the glass.  He throws rabbit punches at his image, saying "I hate that guy."

My mother is hunched, her head parallel to the floor, circling the hallways with her walker.  Muttering to herself that she's going to die.  She's wearing a black blouse with tiny white pin-dots, black pants, clunky black maryjanes.  It's hard to get used to, seeing her like this, her mind a flock of ravens, shattering into diaspora.

"They leave me pictures of amputated fingers," she tells me.

"Who?" I ask.

"The STAFF!"

"I'm pretty sure that's not happening." I tell her.

"Your father believes me." she says.

She has Parkinson's Disease, with psychosis and hallucinations.

I see myself, or perhaps my sister, 30 years from now.  We all have the same auburn hair, fair complexions, delicate bones, although their eyes are blue, and mine are hazel.  I ask my sister: will we shrink like those folk dolls, made from dried apples?  Will we cling so desperately to who we were that we can't be trusted on our own, believing we can drive our cars while blind, manage the bills and the checkbook when we can't remember what they mean? Will our minds change in some fundamental way, lewy bodies, amyloid plaques, the broken synapses a foregone conclusion, written in our genome, a countdown clock, ticking away?

Sometimes I picture them when they were younger: Dad cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, Mom with her hair set in giant rollers to straighten it.  They used to have cocktail parties, play bridge.  They traveled to Europe, twice.  My dad used to mow the lawn every week, until he began to believe he kept breaking the lawn mowers because he couldn't remember how they worked.  We found four fully functioning mowers in the garage when we cleaned out their house.

We found a drawer full of fingernail clippings.

We found over a thousand twist ties--the green ones you get in the produce department at the supermarket--stashed all over the house.

We found cereal in the freezer.

We found bugs in the pantry and poison ivy all over the yard.

We found ourselves completely unprepared for this.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I spend most of today drinking gunpowder green tea and reading Louise Erdrich.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

99 Things

I Love:

99. loose leaf tea

98. thunderstorms

97. swing dresses

96. heated blankets

95. covered porches

94. lemonade

93. bunnies

92. blue and white china

91. horror movies

90. red velvet cupcakes

89. silly cat memes

88. coloring books and colored pencils

87. red lipstick

86. evening walks

85. hot baths

84. lemon meringue pie

83. unexpected gifts

82. romantic dinner dates

81. vintage cars

80. brand new notebooks and journals to write in

79. backyard cookouts

78. christmas lights

77. striped pajamas

76. novelty t-shirts

75. anything plaid

74. comfortable silences

73. days off

72. sleeping in

71. diner breakfasts

70. solitude

69. reading poetry

68. writing poetry

67. going to the theater

66. Alfred Hitchcock movies

65. clean bathrooms

64. making soup

63. fireflies

62. snowfall

61. science fiction

60. clean, folded laundry

59. lamplight

58. reading all day

57. dark chocolate

56. cara cara oranges

55. tarot cards

54. antique furniture

53. tiny houses

52. semi precious stones

51. teapots

50. birthdays

49. spaghetti dinners

48. good hair days

47. lavender scented skin creme

46. eyeliner

45. chai

44. old photographs

43. Nicolas Cage movies

42. getting packages in the mail

41. beautiful hats

40. airstream travel trailers

39. road trips

38. comfy reading chairs

37. mint green

36. old lockets

35. jeans that fit

34. flannel shirts

33. hibiscus flowers

32. swimming

31. porch sitting

30. caramel sundaes

29. hotel rooms

28. buttered noodles

27. museums

26. libraries

25. candles

24. Thanksgiving dinner

23. brand new sheets

22. stained glass

21. footed cake plates

20. the scent of vanilla

19. original artwork

18. brand new pens

17. roasted pears

16. lots of pillows

15. mystery novels

14. rocking chairs

13. 90's dance party!

12. robots

11. tall stacks of unread books

10. gingerbread

9. opals

8. cat's eye glasses

7. cardigan sweaters

6. old maps with sea monsters lurking in the oceans

5. afternoon naps

4. depression glass

3. skirts with pockets

2. messy updos

1. chocolate chip cookies topped with coarse salt