On a Bedside Basket of Books…

Image result for image basket of books

On a Bedside Basket of Books…

Just this morning it happened. The pile became one book too high. The basket of books beside my bed came tumbling down. Not only down, but across and over.

Now most people I know have a To Be Read shelf. And most have a substantial portion of that at hand by their bed. But as in all things, there can be too much of a good thing. This morning proved to be just that. And as I scooped and gathered and crawled under the bed to retrieve all that had been in my wonderful basket, this is what I found:

  • Two Lemony Snicketts
  • Barefoot to Avalon – David Payne (I started this, but it just hit too close to home. And from it, the idea for my third novel sprang.)
  • Expert’s Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know—I know a few.
  • Make Way for Lucia – E.F. Benson (all 1120 pages) – one of my favorites, to be savored, read and re-read, although all those pages make for a heavy book.
  • What Writers Do – a wonderful gift from a friend, and a delightful lagniappe to find my dear muse, Abigail DeWitt featured.
  • A Simenon Maigret mystery – and old paperback, yellowed, crumbling pages and 8-point type.
  • Rude Bitches Make Me Tired – Celia Rivenbark – a gift from a friend.
  • An old copy of The Missouri Review – I know there is good stuff in here – one day…
  • O.Henry Magazine (3) -ditto
  • Atlantic Magazine (3) – triple ditto
  • New York Magazine with an article about Obama – sigh…
  • Shambala Sun (6) – I know I’ll get to those articles one day…
  • Journal of a Solitude – May Sarton – always good for a third, or fourth, reading.
  • Crampton Hodnet – Barbara Pym – one of my favorite Pym’s…a comfort read.
  • The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street – Helene Hanff – the author of the wonderful 84 Charing Cross Road.
  • The Power of Intention – Wayne Dyer – must have needed inspiration– read it years ago and it gave me the shot in the arm I needed.
  • The Survival of the Bark Canoe – John McPhee – for my outdoor moments.
  • The Wonder Spot – Mellisa Bank – ??
  • Ravelstein– Saul Bellow – need a dictionary at my elbow when I read Bellow.
  • The Emperor’s Children – Claire Messud – I know this will be good.
  • This is the Story of a Happy Marriage – Ann Patchett- think that I actually read this and wanted to go back and savor.

So that is my collection – and it doesn’t count the library books that always seem to end up on top – because they have to be returned. I often think about taking a break from the library, to catch up on these and the others on the TBR shelf. But, as I stopped by the library today to pick up two that I had on reserve, I thought – maybe later.

 

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On Becoming (Maybe) a Member of the DAR

wspaper clipping of President General Cook and portraits of her cabinet circa 1923.

On Becoming (Maybe) a Member of the DAR –

I never thought much about the DAR; my knowledge was primarily limited to the Marion Anderson/Eleanor Roosevelt kerfuffle. I know they’ve changed, that they are struggling to be relevant. I’m sure they do good works, though taking credit for the deeds – or misdeeds — of one’s ancestors never made a lot of sense to me.

But I kept hearing a familiar voice: “I could have been a member of the DAR.” My grandmother’s words, she in high dudgeon when I, or anyone (everyone, actually) in the family pooh-poohed, or worse, ignored, her claims of illustrious family history.

She grew up in Admiral, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, a town that no longer exists, subsumed by the establishment of Camp Meade during World War I. Her family had the general store and post office there. Her father, a railroad worker, died in a work accident when she was a small child; her mother was left with four small children. They lived a hard-scrabble existence. I don’t know how much formal education she had, but she was a reader all her life, though her taste tended toward Romance novels of the day, and she possessed the loveliest handwriting I’ve encountered.

It was in that general store where, in 1904, she met and soon married my grandfather, a Baltimorean employed to install telephone lines. She loved the music of Stephen Foster and the sound of a fiddle, but she happily left country life for the amenities and supposed sophistications of urban living.

I’m sure she romanticized her youth, so proud of being an Anderson, though prior generations of the Andersons of Anne Arundel County had reproduced so prolifically that any land passed on was just a memory by her time.

“I could have been a member of the DAR.” We rolled our eyes and smirked. Now I find that it just might be true.

And so, as one of my New Year’s resolutions, I’m applying for membership in the DAR. Not to honor my grandmother’s memory so much, as to honor her longing; to say “I believe you.” This membership is for you, Rose Anderson, along with a sincere apology for not caring enough to listen to the yearning behind your story, for you were asking us to believe that you were “someone.”  I apologize for not understanding that, for not respecting, for not loving, for not even being kind.

And to tell you, if you can hear me, that I’m sorry. I wish I had done better.

Gramma, this one’s for you.

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Love, Requited and Otherwise…

Image result for image unrequited love

On Love, Requited and Otherwise –

Those Romantic poets – all that unrequited love, beauty held forever, unbesmirched by acne, tired bags under the eyes, or stray hairs that mysteriously appear in places best unidentified.

For what is better than unrequited love? Each of us needs at least one to break our heart. But not more than one. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, one unrequited love is tragic; two is simply careless, not to say extremely trying to the soul.

But, oh, to keep that vision, that fantasy. What enchanting pain when the indignities of life become too aching to bear. We can delightfully retreat into a fantasy of what-could-have-been and somehow place reality in abeyance.

If only…and we blithely embroider a favorite scenario – a poor man’s fairy tale.

But it’s requited love that is valid, and demanding, and in its way as angst-producing as the one-that-got-away (or the one-that-never-was). Requited love – where we know the other, warts and all, and, even more alarming, they know us. Requited love – where the best and worst are observed and experienced. The mirror held up to us.

Unrequited love is easy. It’s requited love that’s the bitch. It’s a bit like writing – as long as we think about writing, read about writing, believe that we could write if only the time were right, as long as we don’t act, the dream lives.  All those if onlys.

And when we actually move words from head to hand, when we see there, in black and white, our nonsensical, puerile phrases, those that sounded so grand as we lay in our beds, our dreams are splintered. And that’s when the real work of writing begins, when we face our hopes and work to move them from fantasy to a fractured, but tangible, reality.

Like love. Like marriage. Like any honest long-term relationship. When we hear, and say, I love you. The days after.

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We Are All Refugees…

I had intended to post something else — a trifle on unrequited love — and then — the headlines of the week. Immigrants, refugees, shithole nations…
I remembered a piece I had posted – just about one year ago to the day. About refugees. And it appears that our leader, and our leadership, has become even more implacable in their disdain.
I know that I am not the only one who weeps. At least we have that.

Image result for image refugees

My book group is reading The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Its narrator, a half-French, half-Vietnamese operative, tells a story of divided loyalties. It begins in 1975 with the withdrawal of American forces from South Vietnam.

I lived through this time; I remember pictures of South Vietnamese clinging to American helicopters as they left the area. At the time I thought, how sad, and then went back to my life and my problems and worries,so much more important than what was happening so far away. Sorry that “those people” had to endure even more than they had, but, really, wasn’t there always sadness?

Earlier this year, I watched the PBS Documentary, “Last Days in Vietnam.” Rory Kennedy (yes, that Kennedy) did a superb job of re-telling this story that many of us thought we knew. I thought I knew. I didn’t. So much that I didn’t realize, that I glossed over. I’m sure the press covered it, though not in a way that I paid attention to, so wrapped up in my own life was I.

And so I became a bit less blind. And less blind. And less blind.

And now I find myself looking with disbelief with what our president has done, with the flourish of a pen, proud of his executive order. Calling it “extreme vetting.” Others, those with little hope of escape, of freedom, might chose to call it something else. And those of us who watch, in horror, feel both outrage and helplessness.

We post our indignation on Facebook; we write blogs like this one; we live in our bubble where everyone agrees with us. Certainly, we remember that we ALL come from refugees.

And meanwhile…

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On Procrastination, Phone Phobia, and Persistence

ahh-procrastination

On Procrastination, Phone Phobia, and Persistence

I am here to tell you that I have the cleanest refrigerator in North Carolina. My cats can attest to the fact that their litter box sparkles. And you may have guessed why. Procrastination – cleaning out the fridge, scrubbing the litter box, delights, compared to tackling what I am putting off.

Oh, yes, I do make lists, pesky tasks, just waiting to be x’ed out. But there they remain. Not too much of an exaggeration that I have spent more time and energy writing and re-writing those same words on my to-do list than it would take just to do them. Every time that I manage to actually complete one of those burdensome obligations, I tell myself – see, just do it. It takes up way more space in your brain to put it off.

And, once again, I admit to myself that these undertakings are not onerous, not in the least. I seem to be able to manage doing those types of duties. I may not enjoy them, but at least I do get them done. No, it is so often those tasks that should be easy, even enjoyable. Like using the phone.

I confess. I have major phone phobia. And it is interesting, and comforting, that, as I have admitted to this, I’ve found a cadre of fellow phone-phobics. We acknowledge to being willing to drive miles, some of us say up to a hundred, to see, rather than call, a friend. A friend, mind you, not someone whose presence, voice or otherwise, would cause consternation and/or dismay. We are phobic about calling our friends. Now we all know this makes no sense. No matter. We remain phobic, grateful for texts, emails, and Facebook Messenger. Anything rather than an actual call to arrange a time to meet – coffee, lunch, dinner, it doesn’t matter.

I have been known to threaten, when I haven’t received a reply to one of my electronic messages “Don’t make me call you.” This is guaranteed to elicit an almost-instant response.

So as I sit here at my desk, with my to-do list, I have highlighted those tasks that I am putting off. Two involve calls to friends. I know I’ll feel better after I do this. I know that.

But I think I’ll try email. Or maybe I’ll call and they won’t pick up so I can leave a voicemail. I can do that. Or maybe I’ll just put this on my list to do tomorrow.

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In Search of Hope…

In Search of Hope —

Hope – I’ve been seeing this word a lot over the last few days. Christians referencing the hope of Christmas, sages writing of hope and the new year. Don’t give up, they say. Keep hope in your heart. Things will get better.

And so I wonder why these words ring hollow to me. Until our current political situation, I considered myself a relatively hopeful person. In considering it, I think that I still am – on a personal level. I am hopeful; I am grateful; I realize how blessed, just how lucky I am.

But I struggle to find hope in our political world. This year has contained one assault after another, mainly, it seems, on those most vulnerable. My almost-daily calls to our North Carolina senators and representatives (I have their numbers on speed-dial), answered by voice-mail or by increasingly snide, young, self-satisfied staffers, have had no impact. The Republican Congress continues to support their leader in ever-increasing egregious paths. The rifts in our country, urban vs. rural, religious vs. secular, Fox News vs. CNN, seem to be widening, each side secure in their belief that right is on their side. Everyone has a side, including me.

Someone wrote that the best thing about 2017 is that we survived it. And I do take solace in that. This time last January I wasn’t so sure. Yes, we’ve survived, but we’ll never be the same.

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On Why I Am In Love With The D.C. Metro…

d.c. subway

On Why I Love the D.C. Metro….

I’ve been visiting Washington, D.C. since I was a little girl. My first memories are of staying with my great-aunt and -uncle’s house on Foxhall Road. Their small duplex was a child’s dream, full of dark shadows, secretaries and desks crammed with mysterious papers, receipts, pictures of my parents in their young and innocent days. Uncle Ernest would take me across the street to the Rexall Drugstore, where, three times a week, he would treat his Boston Bull Terrier to a vanilla ice cream cone. They had no children of their own, so Foxie received great bounty. I was enthralled.

Now, of course, these houses, if they have not been replaced by McMansions, are selling for a million dollars. Not the D.C. I grew up with.

Of course, there were grade school, high school field trips – those yellow school buses chartered just for the day, where my main memories are the songs sung on the way home, most notably Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall. These visits soon were followed by Friday and Saturday night jaunts to Georgetown and environs where the drinking age was conveniently set at 18. My now-mature memories of those drives home, New York Avenue to the Baltimore-Washington Expressway, cause me to shudder and breathe a plentitude of gratitude to the universe for getting us home safely.

My boyfriend and I spent a somber November night in 1963 waiting in line with thousands of others to view the casket of President Kennedy at the Capitol. Thousands waited, and the silent grief of a nation was palpable.

And later, Sunday trips to museums, to fancy restaurants, meeting friends who had snared jobs working for Congressmen (for then it was men), jobs and bosses they could, sort-of, be proud of, or at least we didn’t know what we know now.

But jobs and moves took me out of range for a quick trip to D.C. So my memories are of long-ago. Until a few weeks ago – a trip back, just to sight-see and remember.

And, oh, that subway. What a treat to jump on an escalator and be wherever we wanted to be in a matter of moments. (Although I must admit to strong memory of the Season 2 premiere of House of Cards where Zoe Barnes was pushed in front of a moving train at the (thank-you) fictional stop of Cathedral Heights.) Everyone was patient, helpful, as we negotiated buying, and using, our day passes; the cars were on-time, clean, just what you’d like your subway system to be. And, as always, people watching…. I can’t remember the last time I’d seen so many suits.

It was great to see Woodies again, still extant. And Garfinkel’s – at least the building is there. We drank coffee from a bowl. Why is this popular? And visited museums, Union Station, and “discovered” the Eastern Market area. This was a high point of my trip – I loved the area that, for now at least, is on the fringe of gentrification, so that, during the week, we could still be among those residents who’ve made the neighborhood what it is. I’m sure in a few years, they will be displaced. That’s what we do, and I think that we’re all the poorer for it.

We didn’t see all that we wanted to see. I still want to visit my books at the Library of Congress, want to spend time at the National Archives, and always more museums. I’m glad we went. Despite the current political climate, I love this Capital of our nation.

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