Archives for the month of: December, 2012

imagesCA9U2AM5Dancing the Tunes

I am a woman of rich inner means, of hips which widen, and of feet which grow clumpier as the years go by.  The word “dance” does not call to me as it did in my younger years.

At twelve, my twin Liz climbed out of a tree, swung into the back door of our twelve- room house, and ran up stairs to our bedroom.  We shared.  She drew a line down the middle of the room.  No crossing.  Twins are like that.  But on Friday nights at 7.30, all the twelve year olds in our town dressed in either suits for the boys or dresses, stockings and shiny patent leather shoes for the girls.

Harry Raymond’s Dancing School, Friday night sessions ,were held weekly in a sagging huge yellow house with white trim on Centre Street in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, near the Shawmut Bank.  My father or mother drove us, and we sat in the back seat feeling like victims in a Black Mariah, wheels silently thwopping towards Harry’s.

Dressing for Harry’s was weekly penance.  Red silky type dresses; made by my mother, with tiny cloth buttons and Peter Pan Collars.  Under the dresses, the dreaded undershirt, and down further the garter belts which were like magnets to the seamed beige stockings we reluctantly hauled over our young girl thighs.

This was a mournful time for us; a time we didn’t fight, too locked into the mutual tragedy of garter belts – long floppy rubberized stretchy thin bands with hooks on the end.  The clips at the end were like a snake’s mouth – open, slide over nylon stocking, close, and clip, a metal slider of small proportions would pull the length of the strips tight.  Ugh.  A beginning rite of passage where I would learn women’s looks are for pleasing, pleasing men.  Am I okay?  All right, as in are my seams straight?  Liz and I were poised on the edge of some type of womanhood, reluctantly brought into the fold of How Do I Look, Does This Please?  Will He Like Me?

Once left off on the curb, we clumped up beat up wide stairs next to a rickety white banister and head towards the powder room.  Jannie Cleary with her curly red hair seemed unfazed.  I wondered if she wore a bra, maybe that’s why she seemed to carry an aura of confidence. “She likes boys,” Liz whispered to me with a downward twist of her mouth.

We filed out and sat on chairs in a huge circle around the edges of the ballroom.  We sat like cows watching Harry Raymond, a thin double for Liberace, glide across the floor, moving by each young girl saying, “Girls’ legs are meant to be closed.”  Then, each week he’d tap Liz’s ankles with his slim black and gold cane, and say, “Ladies do not sit with their legs apart,” because Liz always sat as if ready to spring upon a horse and ride off into some elusive West.

First we learned the Fox Trot, l clump, 2 clump, 3 clump, sway together 4.  During the week at Ruthie Anderson’s house, we danced the fox trot with each other.  Ruthie was Protestant, and we were Roman Catholic.  Our mothers were best friends – daring in a world of people who kept to their own.

Then we learned the waltz – l, 2, 3 – l, 2, 3, feet stomped instead of slid  on the old wooden floor as we stood like fledgling dancers auditioning for a musical.  Eventually we sweated through the waltz.

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Girls had to sit and wait to be asked to dance. The boys liked Liz; she was cute and sporty.  I sat there like a female Prince Valiant, a large red square of silk, my hair a dark clump of blunt and my bangs sort of straight, but not really.  My throat filled with doubt, as one by one, the seats around me emptied.  Finally after thinking I’ll just put my throat on a hook, tall, small-headed, round-chinned Holland Morgan stood silently before me.  His brown eyes questioned me, and his right eyebrow went up as in a “why not,” and we wordlessly cobbled our dancing feet together..  A fox trot.  Step, Step, Step and Step; learning to hoof in a measured square to a musical beat.

Then, as if Zeus threw a thunderbolt into my mouth, I heard myself motor mouthing about dogs, our once poodle who died.  Holland knew of this sad event.  I spoke droolingly of our beige non-altruistic pug and our copper-toned farting boxer.  Words poured out of my mouth like an overfill of chicklets spilling out..  I don’t remember his response.

Years later, when I was twenty, I met Holland again.  He was a friend of my step-brother.  I fell in love with him because of his writing.  He called me Cynthia one winter night as we walked over to Howard Johnson’s for coffee in Kenmore Square, and I was shattered.  He was at Dartmouth, and I worked down on State Street for attorneys.  I lived with roommates near the back of Fenway Park, near Kenmore Square.

I still dream of Kenmore Square because my mother died one icy day in our apartment on Bay State Road. Old issues maybe, or deep wounds, not all caught up by the therapist’s dustbuster.   Liz and I were seventeen.  We had a pug and a boxer, and Liz and I would walk them across Storrow Drive, and walk by the river, the wind whipping through us in the winter.  It was a good day when I realized, after Holland, after Bob, after blah, blah, I wanted what they had:  words, empowerment, not to be lost.  I was a dance in progress, and it’s taken a long time to become myself.  I no longer wear stockings with seams, although they are coming back, and I’m glad that time period is over.  Some people want to go back when times were good.  Good for whom, I might ask.  Then I think it’s all some sort of a dance – this life – a dance indeed.

<a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13547180-brain-on-fire” style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” border=”0″ src=”http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1353173297m/13547180.jpg” /></a><a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13547180-brain-on-fire”>Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness</a> by <a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5778057.Susannah_Cahalan”>Susannah Cahalan</a><br/> My rating: <a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/450391922″>5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />

<br/><br/> <a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/2785181-esther-bradley-detally”>View all my reviews</a>

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I sit here on the anniversary of my marriage to my husband who is now 78, and I say to my 74-year-old self, “Self, did you think 27 years ago you’d be sitting here contemplating verbs and old age and giving out sage advice, sage being not only a spice?

I vividly remember our wedding, my dusty pink Laise Adser dress with pastel green nubby cloak with hood, like Meryl Streep wore in the French Lieutenant’s Woman. Bill and I fit like Bogie & Bacall, like bookends of similar but different backgrounds. We remember radio. We were Catholic. We were from the right-hand side of the United States, and we both love pug dogs. Is this the basis of a spiritual relationship? It is.

There’s more this story – how I met him after he had been a Baha’i for two weeks; how I had to go back to being a legal secretary, having left my cubicle four years earlier to return to college; how we had income which was good in the beginning, and how I just before I met him I made the insane decision to buy a radio for my car. We met, we laughed, we matched, and in a dream one night our DNA code swirled around us in figure 8’s. That’s what I call, “It’s a sign.” Yeah, we did a lot of that too.
I made a list of qualities wanted in my unseen mate, and this list fell out of a book a year after we were married. Everything on this long narrow list, “Sensitive, spiritual, humor,” was there – I turned to him waiving the list of scribbled hopes, and said, “I forgot to put tall,” but if so, I wouldn’t have married my husband who is about an inch shorter than I.
It’s been an action packed life. We moved seventeen different times. I had health issues which I’ll speak of at 80 or so. We traveled across Russia, visited Siberia, and lived in Ukraine and Belarus, before, during and after the breakup of the Soviet Union. We also lived with my second mother-in-law who told me one day, “You carry the heavy stuff for him,” and now it is the day of our 27th anniversary.

I sit here with a hiatal hernia, and a suspiciously ingrown toe. I am in my red and black PJs – contemplating words used for aging. Baby Boomers take note. “Use strong verbs – might I suggest “lurch” and “cope.”

My marriage, and a plethora of other happenings, healed me, and now we both face the final frontier. I finally have self-acceptance and self-appreciation, except for an occasional Thursday of black condemning thoughts. It is a time of great inner wisdom and also a time when my body becomes like an old truck spending more time in repair. An ashtray falls out, gets fixed and doors fall off. The unknown is with us every night when our sliding door shuts. Allergies descend upon my husband at every weather change, and it feels like the English Channel roars through my ears, until I turn and rub his back to his snuff, snuff, cough, cough away. I am like someone spraying the end of the contents of the Raid Can.

Again it is also surviving a twin’s passing first if you want to know, and it’s being grateful for skin that looks young thanks to a friend’s gift of Clarins. It’s having a pool house with very low rent and landlord kindness. It was having heart and gall bladder surgery within days of each other and surgeons writing off their fees, but not telling me. It’s standing up to my last breath for the oneness of humankind, and always helping someone every day. It’s living beyond the fringe and not having 401K’s and not giving a rat’s ass, but rather living in a quirky world where status is a blind removed from my mind knowing wealth follows poverty and poverty follows wealth , and I think of the quote, “ O Children of Dust – Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor …” and even when my cash flow is minimal, I listen.

It’s having lingering fears in a dark hour at night, when I get up to pee and hope when I am very old, I will not be a burden, and I don’t want my family to take care of me, because I’ve lived with two mother-in-laws. It doesn’t work very well.

It’s every day having something slow me down, feeling crappola, but then again getting up, like a Russian Matroishka doll who bops up repeatedly after falling, and like a Russian Woman who is strong, and other women also, it’s seeing the beauty in so many faces, and loving the nobility among the anonymous. It’s having two themes fascinate me – man’s humanity to man and man’s inhumanity to man. I don’t mind dying, it’s the getting there, and I want to have integrity and nobility. So far I’ve managed to have dignity in the extreme times of my life, but one never knows his or her ending. It’s also having great kids, family, grandchildren and friends.

It’s living with more soul than body, and not ganging up on myself for having a peanut butter sandwich every morning for breakfast, and drinking lemonade, a good kidney stone prevention. It’s always turned towards something greater, a Divine Presence, and yet being willing to throw my whole being over a cliff for the wellbeing of the world.. It’s always learning, always seeing the wisdom in all things, no longer have shoulders tense up about every issue on earth.

Moderation to some degree has come to me. Trust, like surfing the opaque waves, is there also, but I have to guard this feeling until my last breath, and maybe one silent no breath. It is a life of purpose and humility with a whispered hope that I’ve left the world a little brighter.

A necessary voice – from a fellow blogger …

Mel's Madness

The president said we have to face some hard questions; twenty elementary school children were gunned down in their classrooms on Friday, along with six adults charged with keeping them safe. It was unfathomable…

Just as it was beyond comprehension when twelve students and one teacher were gunned down in Littleton Colorado… Do you even remember their names? Twenty-one more were injured.  They too were children: Cassie Bernall (17), Steven Curnow (14), Corey DePooter (17), Kelly Fleming (16), Matthew Kechter (16), Daniel Mauser (15), Daniel Rohrbough (15), Rachel Scott (17), Isaiah Shoels (18), John Tomlin (16), Lauren Townsend (18), Kyle Velasquez (16) died along with a teacher, William “Dave” Sanders, at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.  It was unfathomable that anyone could wantonly kill people so young, so innocent…

But then wasn’t the time to talk about it. Emotions were raw. Americans were in a state of shock…

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This was terrifically fun and well done; Steve’s a buddy, and the biggest encourager (word?) for my work. I’m reading this in my pjs; hmmmm