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Archive for May, 2019

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Growing up, I’d never heard of Dorothea Lange. There were no Women’s Studies courses in the 1960s. We knew about Doris Day and Eleanor Roosevelt and sometimes I’d dream about marrying a prince like Grace Kelly – hey, she was born in Pennsylvania like me. And there was always Brigette Bardot and Marilyn Monroe just in case I aspired to be a sex symbol? On second thought, I really wanted to be a comedienne like Carol Burnett.

But Bob and I wanted to see the Frist exhibit of Dorothea Lange before she left the building – the museum is the actual/original Art Deco Nashville Post Office and always amazes me. The exhibit is scheduled to close this weekend so we boogied downtown the other afternoon; I’d admired Lange from the moment I heard about her, a photographer who documented the real human toil of the Great Depression. https://fristartmuseum.org/calendar/detail/dorothea-lange

I wasn’t expecting to cry. I was so moved by her images of families displaced by the economy and dust bowls. Lange is famous for her portraits of migrant women, both white and black which was unusual in itself, but when we got to the pictures of Japanese families sitting, patiently waiting to be deported to internment camps, surrounded by their bags, I wept.

The children had government ID tags on them.

I was touched because I knew that feeling, displacement. It was in my bones and it has never left me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Things are heating up here in Nashville. Literally. Temps are headed into the 90s this week, and Bob got the gas fire pit to work just in time for summer. Naturally I decided to make my famous not-too-spicy-turkey-veggie chili last night; always a good way to get rid of all the remaining vegetables lurking in the fridge, including some parsnips that were sprouting greenery.

On Sunday our little neighborhood had its annual “Sip and Stroll” garden guzzle! Basically it’s a good excuse to drink with your friends and neighbors whilst walking around outside. A truck leads the way to 5 gardens with wine and beer on tap! Last year we had a blast, so I packed up my insulated summer wine goblet and headed east. The magnolias are in bloom, redbuds are leafing out and flowers were everywhere – lucky for us, when the rain finally exploded, we could take cover inside an open garage.

My 92 year old neighbor Berdelle’s son was in town for another outdoor lesson in T’ai Chi on Saturday. I loved practicing under the trees in her secret garden with 7 other women, listening to the haunting sound of a train whistle among the bird songs. It transports you to another time and place. I remembered all my attempts at gardening; my border of rosa rugosa in Rumson, my feeble plot to plant fig trees in Charlottesville just so the deer could enjoy them.

This morning is T’ai Chi at the Y and I’ll ask Berdelle if she’d like to attend a rally right after our class downtown to support Planned Parenthood. Maybe we will laugh about the “great” state of Alabama because in the darkest time we must find humor. AL has added insult to injury today – not only did it pass the most restrictive anti-choice bill in decades, its public television station has refused to air a cartoon episode of an anthropomorphic aardvark named Arthur! Why?

Because Arthur marries his same-sex partner. Oh the humanity!

The Bride’s friend Tamara from Duke wrote an excellent article about her abortion, or involuntary miscarriage, years ago that still rings true. I double dare any anti-choice person to read it! https://www.huffpost.com/entry/heartbeat-involuntary-miscarriage-and-voluntary-abortion-in-ohio_b_2050888

Ultimately, these TRAP laws and heartbeat bills are incremental infringements on our constitutional rights as Americans. They are lead by far-Right zealots who would like us to follow their own brand of religion, which tells them that marriage is between a man and a woman and that life begins in the womb, with no exceptions.

Not even when a fetus has no brain tissue and would never survive after birth, not even if a child is raped… They really need to stop legislating a woman’s uterus! Our First Amendment guarantees our freedom from religious tyranny, of any kind. That’s why our ancestors immigrated to this country.

So I’ll put on my big girl boots and march again this morning for #StoptheBans after T’ai Chi, I’ll donate to Planned Parenthood, and maybe I’ll break out my insulated wine goblet too. I’ll carry a sign and chant a chant. I’ll stop to smell the gardenias and keep fighting as if my grand daughter’s life depends on it. She’s got the bees knees!

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Hey Alabama, do you really know me? My generation didn’t discuss abortion, like we didn’t discuss cancer. It was 1967 and I was a budding feminist; I hated having my skirt length measured in high school, and couldn’t believe we had to wear skirts on the streets of Boston when I went off to college. Boys could always wear what they wanted, go wherever they wanted, and say or do anything. We girls had our reputations to think of, it seemed everyone was thinking about this. So many rules about our bodies.

I couldn’t wait to shed some of those rules – in the words of Henry Higgins, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

When I walked into the UMass hospital with belly pain, I was shocked to find out I was pregnant. The word bereft comes to mind, why couldn’t the young doctor DO something? I almost think he felt sorry for me. So I did what many young girls did in that situation, I thought I’d better get married. After all, abortion was illegal in 1967.

But when I outlined my plan to marry some frat boy from MIT, my big sister had a better idea. She asked me if I really loved him, and that’s when I broke down crying in the stupid phone booth at the bottom of the stairs in my Beacon Street dorm. She told me to come to New York.  I had an abortion.

It’s true we don’t owe the world our abortion stories, because being able to control our bodies is an elemental human right. I was a teenager, a Freshman in college, I couldn’t support myself, let alone a child. I didn’t end up in a cult, or as Mrs. Frat Boy in a cul-de-sac in Colorado. Did I feel shame and guilt? You betcha.

That’s why I married somebody else pretty quickly;  my step-father had just died, I needed an anchor. I married a law student, because I was still bereft and unmoored, and my starter marriage lasted 4 years.

I’m pretty sure if you count all the women of my generation who had abortions, it would look more like 2 in 4, or maybe 3? We went to Puerto Rico, we went to Europe, we went to brownstones in NYC, and we went to back alleys in Boston – depending on our socio-economic status. We had bought into the idea of equality, until it was too late. The wealthy will always be able to get what they want, the poor will always suffer.

If you were the result of an unwanted pregnancy that turned into a wonderful adoption story, good on you. But you probably left a scar that never heals in your birth mother’s womb. If you were the result of an unwanted pregnancy, and you were raised by your teenage mom, and her mom probably, good on you. That was your mom’s choice. Some of you succeeded without a father, and some landed in the foster care program, which is where I landed as a baby in my Year of Living Dangerously.

Even though the Flapper always told me, “You’re the only child I ever planned,” I was born because of a lie. A doctor thought my father had lost the will to live, so he advised the Flapper to have baby number 6, me! I may have been wanted, but that didn’t change  our circumstances. My father was actually losing his brain to a glioblastoma, I was 7 months old when he died.

Women need reliable, comprehensive, reproductive healthcare. We don’t need a bunch of white men in Alabama telling us we could be imprisoned for a miscarriage… it’s no longer 1967. And I’m not sorry I postponed motherhood, it was my choice.

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“Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer,
I was taken by a photograph of you.
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more,
But they didn’t show your spirit quite as true.”

Those lyrics from Jackson Browne’s song “Fountain of Sorrow” have been playing through my mind lately. We were heading into the home stretch of unpacking boxes and settling into our party farmhouse when Bob decided it was time to digitize our mountains of old pictures – the Bride’s 9th birthday party, the Rocker’s Middle School birthday trip to the Liberty Science Center with the Twin Towers hovering in the background. Eighth Grade graduations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, my little cheerleader and my little ice hockey player.

Every single important event had been chronicled, and sometimes just random moments, like an impromptu trip to DC, or a drive back to the Berkshires, under sparkling amber trees with old friends.

I tried to look at myself objectively, did I look happy then? Or was I rushed and angry because I’d completed the grunt work and didn’t want to “pose” for a picture? What possessed me to don a Groucho Marx nose for a beach birthday party? We have lots of doubles because the second set of pictures were free and you never know who might want one.

A friend sent me a picture of herself, hanging clothes out on a line in the 70s dressed in bell bottoms.  I loved pinning up my clean, wet clothes to the sun, and still love it today even though there is no clothes line outside my city house. I guess Bob never saw fit to catch me hanging up diapers, or maybe he was always working on wash day.

I had a sense during that sweet young motherhood time, a feeling that this was just about the best it would ever be. I’d started writing for a newspaper, pecking out words during naptime and at night after the children were asleep. We had feminist consciousness raising young mom playgroups where we shared our secret mothering tricks and helped each other after each new birth. I used to sew baby elephants that would attach nose to tail across the new baby’s crib.

It was a lifetime ago, and yet it was just yesterday.

“I found some pictures where I still had dark hair,” Bob just said. And my hair looked different in each frame because strawberry blonde hair cannot be captured by a camera. Sometimes it looks like mahogany, and sometimes it looks white. Now that I’ve let it go grey, it actually is a blondish/white!

I’m reading a remarkable book by our local bookstore’s blog editor – “I Miss You When I Blink,” by the very blonde Mary Laura Philpott. It’s part memoir, part humor, and all heart. Following in the footsteps of Bombeck and Quindlen, she talks about her mother quizzing her in First Grade for a spelling bee, and she mentions how mothers always take the blame for our failures. She is, however, smart enough to know how nature can pounce on nurture. She was probably a Type A from the get-go. Philpott is still young by my standards, in her 40s, young enough to remember First Grade.

Her book has me literally laughing out loud! “She’s refreshingly honest and very funny, especially when, at a much-anticipated kid-free dinner party, she finds herself in an endless “momversation” (my term, feel free to borrow) on the subject of chicken salad. Boiled or baked? Shredded or chopped? Grapes or no grapes? To salt or not to salt? I chortled as Philpott fumed through dinner: “I had to concentrate to keep from shaking my head no no no, to keep from yelling, SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP . . . Fifteen minutes in, I wanted to scream, ‘Is anyone having some genuine feelings about something? Does anyone have something fascinating or funny or weird to discuss?’”  ”https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/you-know-that-funny-friend-you-look-for-at-dull-mom-parties-here-she-is-in-book-form/2019/03/29/cf43b17e-49ba-11e9-93d0-64dbcf38ba41_story.html?utm_term=.b9b497aebabc

We’ve all had those “momversations.” Seriously, if you know of any other Type A out there, this one’s for them.

Hope y’all had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend. I’ve always said the Flapper did the very best she could. Losing my father when I was 7 months old, then almost losing her own life in a car accident 3 months later. She was a strong and resilient woman and I see her qualities still in my own children, in their determination, chutzpah.

She waited for me to return of my own free will, and I will always be grateful for that. Here I am in my early 40s. Why did I choose a peplum dress? It was the 80s.

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While some were on royal baby watch duty this past weekend, I was on the lookout for high fashion at the Met Gala. Remember last year when it was all churchy? Well, the theme this year was “Camp!” In other words, anything goes. Camp is defined as:

“…something that provides sophisticated, knowing amusement, as by virtue of its being artlessly mannered or stylized, self-consciously artificial and extravagant, or teasingly ingenuous and sentimental.
a person who adopts a teasing, theatrical manner, especially for the amusement of others.”

Since Celine Dion is not a native American speaker of our lovely English language, she thought “camp” meant to bring your sleeping bag and maybe create something with mosquito netting? But the Canadian songbird ended up with a feather fiesta on her head accented with long strings falling off her pencil-thin arms. Those 3,000 floor-length strands reminded some of spaghetti drying on a rack!

If I were to create my own “campy” look I’d have to borrow something from Camp St Joseph for Girls. My spin on “khaki shorts and white polo shirts” would look like a layer cake with 40 shades of beige. Topped off with pink pig tails naturally, enhanced freckles, and Keds – just white Keds and socks of course. I’d be sure to carry Bain de Soleil in my evening bag.

The Love Bug went to her very first sleepover birthday party on Friday after actually camping in the woods the weekend before. She seems to have inherited my theatrical nature because A – she didn’t actually sleep, and B – she wore a crystal necklace while politely informing her brother he wouldn’t see her again… (long pause) until the next day! Since the L’il Pumpkin has virtually never known a day without his big sister, this was distressing.

It did, however, amuse the adults in the room! “Dahling, I’ll miss you when I’m gone.”

In other big news over the weekend, we installed the fairy house in our garden to much acclaim. We served honey tea in miniature cups and held hands while we prayed for the tiny creatures who might take up residence. Great Grandma Ada provided more plants and the Love Bug created a small worm house nearby since we do seem to have an abundance of worms.

What does one wear to a Fun Fairy party? Well the campier the better! The Bride came from work in scrubs, the Groom put on his band tee after presiding in the MICU, Ms Bean was in her birthday fur suit, and the Great Grands? Well, they are always red carpet ready!

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It’s another semi-sunny, semi-rainy day in Nashville and I was going to semi-write this morning, but Bob wanted to “talk,” and the Bride wanted to stop by on her way to the garden store. She had one of those hard ER shifts last night, the kind you don’t get over easily. So, off we went in the drizzle to roam among living green things – I needed some pots and I bought her a fig tree. In her city garden, this tree will be safe from marauding deer.

…the fig tree symbolizes life, prosperity, peace and righteousness throughout the Bible. Micah 4:4 reads: “But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and no one shall make them afraid.”       http://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com/2012/05/fig-tree-in-biblical-symbolism.html

My city garden is nearly complete. Our neighbor, Ms Berdelle, has gifted us friends from her garden – artemisia and trumpet plants, but we are running out of room. Our little plot is mostly pebbles, mulch and a fantastic fire pit, so I’ve been planting flowers and herbs in pots. I love to cook and walk out my kitchen door to pick fresh rosemary for a lamb stew. This year I’m planting leeks for the first time, because what Irish stew is finished without leeks?

While browsing all the colorful, beautiful ceramic pots this morning, I thought of my first husband for some strange reason. The story of the cache pot came to mind, pronounced “cash poh,” it is an entirely decorative container for plants. I bought a gorgeous, expensive, Italian pot as a new house gift for one of the partners in his law firm. We were supposed to go to the housewarming party and as a 20 year old new wife, I thought it was a thoughtful gift, just elegant enough, but earthy! After all, he was the new associate.

I remember it cost $50, which in 1970 was alot of money.

Well, we never went to that party. It was the longest, drag-down fight I ever had with him. Don’t misunderstand. He would never hit me, but his words could wound in other ways. I spent too much on the gift, which was followed by how utterly worthless I was as a wife/woman/person. I locked myself in the bathroom for the whole night. I wonder now how I could have ever been so impossibly young and immature, but I guess it’s the nature of things.

To learn and grow from those lessons.

I must finish planting by Sunday because we’re having the official installation of the fairy house on our tree stump. Tinker Bell has been buzzing by, waiting patiently.

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