Tag Archive | Stories

The time flew, the time crawled

“What you preserve is the cheeriest memento mori. It is a way to say and mean: of everything that passes, this is what I choose to keep. It is a clear reminder, there for the tasting, of where and when and how you have lived.”

Suzanne’s been gone a month today. She was my daughter’s boyfriend’s mom. A person who loved well and who was well loved. I think of her daily. I think of her boys daily, my girl and all the people heartbroken by her loss. When she was on the last leg of her dying journey I would turn for solace to one of my favorite bloggers, Hannah, from Inherit the Spoon. In between writing about food, her boys, and home, she writes of memories…in the making, and those made, of her mom, who died a few years ago, a lady who sounds like she was also about 59, same as Suzanne.

Recently, Hannah posted the above quote from a book I enjoyed reading a while back, An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler. It made me think of Danny, Brian’s older brother, Suzanne’s firstborn. Both boys left work last March to come home to care for their mom. Danny left San Francisco, where he was a chef at Outerlands, Brian took a leave of absence from his job in Boston. Time seemed to crawl for me as I held my breath, hoping, praying for miracles.

And when the miracle didn’t happen, the time that was left for them seems like it flew. A whole lifetime. Not nearly enough for any of us, glib as we may want to be with our easy platitudes about grief and loss. I just try to remember the Dr. Seuss quote Suzanne included in her obituary, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” So like her to want to comfort from beyond. Suzanne, wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying an everlasting meal. We miss you.

New Cape/Old Cape

This is and isn’t the cape I left back in the 70’s. The pace is much faster, while the characters and drama in local politics remain static. Kind of like a remake of an old Hollywood movie, not necessarily any better than the original. Same roles, different names and faces.

It’s interesting how the vision and culture seem to mirror the topography. Thankfully we are surrounded by ocean, sky, and horizon…the broad expanse helps balance the narrow land. Nature imposes a balance on our culture and community one way or another.

The dominant culture here changed dramatically while I was in Vermont. Or perhaps, I had changed? most likely, a little of both. The cape felt more conservative and stifled to me. Gone were the hippies and bohemians of the past, replaced with retirees and nouveau riche. Or so it appeared to me on the surface. According to Ana, I needed to create what I most needed to find here, and she was right. Something I’d done unconsciously in Vermont for years and had to learn to do here. And in discovering that I could do it here, remembering that I’d actually been doing this all my life. I was a military kid used to bases and the unique bonds forged with other military families. We were gypsies, vagabonds and I learned early what Darshan was about even though I didn’t have a name for it then.

I rarely drink coffee, I like my tea just so, and you’d better be an exceptional baker if you’re selling because if I can do it better at home…then I will. I am not your typical consumer. It’s an experience I’m seeking, more than a commodity. And imperfection? I love to tolerate it if you have the Darshan I seek.

The cafe, the garden, the work of art, the library, the bike path, the market or shop? That’s just the vehicle to get me to the experience. It’s the people or the trees, the color, or the thrill of the discovery I encounter when I arrive that matters to me.
It’s what Rumer Godden in “A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep” says is a Hindu belief that people will travel miles to see, touch, taste, sense, smell the presence or essence of a person, place or thing, with the belief that they will catch some of its spirit or soul to carry with them – this is what I seek in my journey. Darshan. Connection. The need to belong, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

When I walk to the Caribbean Market in my downtown neighborhood, I am not just going to buy the ginger tea that reminds me of a place in Amherst from my daughter’s college days. I am also going to hear the musical singsong of Patois speakers, to smell the sharp spices of Jamaican cooking, to pretend I’m in the South Carolina of my birth, to remember my own immigrant grandparents and how hard people work to make a new life for themselves, to create a new home. So, all this being said, I will share with you some of my favorite places on Cape Cod where I experience Darshan. This may include places that aren’t perfect but they always have good people, vision, and the feeling that that place is loved.

This is and isn’t about a place called Cape Cod, how it’s changing, how I’m changing…it’s about home…the home we make for ourselves wherever we are, because it’s about us and the people. It’s my guide to recognizing that home is right where I am.

The Cottage on the Beach

“D” for Dinky. We landed in East Sandwich off Ploughed Neck Road in a wee cottage with a big “D” on it for identification. “D” for dinky we said. How were we, a family of six to fit into such a tiny shack at the edge of the ocean? For a whole week!
Well, we did and we ate taffy, ran in and out of ice cold ocean water (it was June), and we bought sweatshirts at King’s Department Store in Hyannis to combat the gray chill damp drizzle that foreshadowed the weather to come that entire summer and fall.

We went into Hyannis to “People Watch,” a favorite past time, checking out the hippies and the obvious tourists (it’s always the men and their socks that makes them easy to spot).
We went to the Doll and Glass museums in Sandwich Village.

Next thing I knew, my parents had bought a house in Hyannis from Joe Coughlin, and we weren’t going “home” to Virginia.

Sandwich, as in a Place, Not on a Plate

Sandwich was where my Cape Cod life began. Easter 1967, my dad took me for a walk and told me he would be going to Vietnam. He explained Vietnam to me; I asked him why the people who make the wars don’t fight them (some things don’t change). It was his job he said. Pretty much the end of the discussion, other than my fear “will you be killed?” He would be leaving in July. In the meantime, he would have some time with the family. Later that spring he told me we were going on vacation. He was very excited and told me to guess where as he gave me a hint, “Cape…” “Canaveral!” I cried. No, not quite. Cape Cod. Never heard of it. “Where the heck is that?” I asked. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed. We took plenty of trips to Massachusetts to visit my Irish family, so Massachusetts wasn’t such a big whoop for a vacation to me, even if it wasn’t at my gran’s.

House

Marty and I sit here in our house every day and express our thanks to each other (and to my father who helped make it happen), we love this little house so. As did Leona, her previous owner who dreamed of returning here for more than a decade, finally succumbing at the age of 96 to selling it to me. I’d written to Leona almost 15 years ago, back when I was still raising my kids and longing for a house that could be our home again — a place to grow roots, yet not become root bound. And here it is. At the epicenter of the transportation center of Cape Cod that is Hyannis, where planes buzz overhead, cars rumble in the distance, the trains screech into the station (along with the buses), and the ferry horn sounds for the last boat to the islands every evening. Bliss.

Can I talk to you tonight?

Our tear ducts are our soul’s pressure valves. A friend told me that years ago. I’m not one prone to tears because my dad always told me when I was little that big girls don’t cry. But I’ve cried streams this month, April, the month of showers. I’ve tried to save my mother all of my life, but I can’t. I know it. I just have to try to save her stories. And no, she’s not gone yet. But it has been so hard to watch her decline over the years. I’m tired and she seems tired too.

Gather

Gather. Prayers, family, friends, flowers, memories, sorrow. Gather.
Children, moments, days, love, hope. Gather.
Sunshine, seasons, a cure, the moon. Gather.
Together. Remembering. Grieving. Ourselves. Gather.

Earth, ashes, dust. Scatter.

Twirling Spaghetti

It used to be called spaghetti, rigatoni, macaroni, lasagna or whatever noodle it happened to be. I don’t remember calling it pasta. Tonight while I was preparing it, I had a food memory from childhood. It’s a twirling spaghetti technique I don’t see my parents do any more. But, they used to. With a fork, they would spear a clump of pas-ghetti and using a large tablespoon, twirl the spaghetti in the bowl of the spoon, using their fork as a sort of baton, before eating it. It was so grown-up to me and something I didn’t think I could ever master then. I tried it tonight and smiled at the memory.

Role Reversal

When did it happen? As I left the rehab center the other day, I turned and waved to my mother from the walkway outside. She waved back to me from the window of her room. All I could think of is how it must have been for us when I was 5 years old, waving to her from the window of the bus on my way to kindergarten, as she waved back to me.

Reading

My parents were readers and I am a reader. I love reading as much, if not more, than I love baking (and drinking tea). Reading becomes my Looking Glass, I can get lost for a very long time in a book. My first “real” job after babysitting was in a library and it continued off and on for many years. So, it only stands to reason that I love words and how they are strung together, playfully, seriously, nonsensically, poetically…some folks express themselves with canvas, clay, flowers, …others express themselves through farming perhaps or setting a beautiful table and so on…It’s all art to me. All of us tell a story when we do this although we ourselves and others may not be aware of it. Because one must pay close attention. The story isn’t always where we’re looking for it. And somewhere in all that work, the kernel of the story is rooted in love. In the latest book I’m reading, it is prefaced with a quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, one of my favorite storytellers. It’s from “The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What Is Enough.”

“Of all the gifts that people can give to one another, the most meaningful and long lasting are strong but simple love and the gift of story.”