I come downstairs. Voices in the kitchen. A man with a German accent is discussing intellectual property. I recognize one of the lawyer’s voices and think yet again about how much I love it. K is not muted. Dare I clank some ice into a glass? A loud bird is squawking at regular intervals. To my mind, as good a contribution as any. It’s hilarious, actually.
And now, to walk the dog. This time of year, cold is mitigated a good deal by the sun. It’s 39 degrees out, not 28 like Monday. I may not wear a hat!
Here is a side by side of my father’s father, Francis Mallon, and Son #2. What do you think?
Closing with celestial images from the walls upstairs.
Texas friends: hang in there! Here in New England, we count the days ’til spring. Less than a month, now.
The prompt for this writing was to imagine someone in shadow.
Aspire as in a form of breath. The earring catches on the collar. The heart flutters fast for no reason. Will the silk rug remain in place, the one that was my mother’s? Will the box of old photos reveal any secrets, or even anything new?
There’s my sister on my father’s shoulders, chewing a finger in nervous gesture in the summer sun. He grips her ankles and wears the relaxed face of a young man in his prime. Out for a picnic. Lulu Brook. On the other side of the state park’s carved sign stands my mother, shoulder canted backward as if to put my face front and center. I am say, five months old. There is a lace bonnet on my head. She wears the face of a young fertile woman in her prime, bringing babies into the world on time, every two years, one more to come.
I lived in the Berkshires for many, many years and then, not far from there in the Connecticut River Valley for a few more. But, I never went to Lulu Brook. It’s somewhere in the Southern Berkshires near the Connecticut border, I think. See? I don’t even know. By the time I lived in Western Mass., ages ten to twenty-one with time outs for school and travel and in three different abodes, there were no family outings to state parks. Suburbia and its demands. Dual careers and those demands. Three kids turning into angry or secretive adolescents and those demands.
And eventually, heart failure. His. The angina was so bad one night that he fell face forward into his dinner plate at Lenny’s Restaurant on Route 20 in New Lebanon, New York. If you lived far enough west in Massachusetts, you crossed the New York state line like others drove a little extra to get to the bigger mall. Somewhat revived on the stretcher rolling out the door, my father quipped, “Don’t order the scallops!” He was funny like that. But no sense of humor would keep his arteries from filling with plaque and seizing. Even surgery only granted him three years more.
But on the summer day of the photo, the year of my birth, when he was twenty-eight and my mother was twenty-four, what could they know of what lay ahead?
One generation earlier, hope skewed much more toward survival, my mother’s father arriving to Ellis Island in his twenties, soon to work the docks in Brooklyn and not long after that, to marry my grandmother, Alice, whose family still lived in County Cork. His name was Albert. They called each other “Al.” It wasn’t until my mother’s younger sister was in grade school and visiting a friend’s house that she realized that not all parents called each other “Al.”
My great-grandmother also came here but returned to Ireland for a while after the death of her young daughter, Mary. Perhaps she wanted the solace of her own mother or maybe she needed the quiet rural landscape of her ancestors instead of the grimy racket of Brooklyn. She was already pregnant with another daughter, who she would also name Mary. I think about the second Mary, conceived before the first Mary’s burial, being born into a clutch of intense grief, expected to bear the name of a little girl already gone into the light.
You wonder how a mother could do that to a child, I don’t care if it was common. Rather than placing honor on new life, it has the stink of a curse. “See New Mary! How much longer will she live than Dead Mary?” All Marys will eventually be Dead Marys, but still. The older sister wasn’t yet dead when the cells of Second Mary began their furious division.
Speaking of furious cell division, my mother might have been pregnant with me in this photo. If not, then it is mere weeks off. Is she smoking? Even with two pairs of eyeglasses on, I can’t quite tell, but probably. It’s the right gesture. It’s the correct hand. It’s the reason I was born teeny and spent the first nine days of my life in an incubator.
Just to say: nothing wrong here. Ended up watching a lot of the hearings. Felt a range of things: wrung out with the intensity; super proud of the House Managers; and disgusted with the GOP.
Before the week is out, I’ll post some writing from one of the days. It seems important to remember.
But for now, I want to share Rebecca Solnit’s brilliant riff on the photograph below. Tomorrow, I’ll post an old photo from my family and my response to it.
“For a long time I imagined that she [her grandmother] was the woman in Lewis Hine’s 1905 photograph “Young Russian Jewess at Ellis Island.” For a photographer known for his social documentary work, it’s a strange image, with its brooding, intense face and its indistinct, soft-focus background. Ellis Island, which in most photographs appears overrun by people, is empty and still here. The only indication of place is the blurry bars of the fences walkways through which lines of people were processed in the Great Hall. This image of such a private and solitary moment in the packed bustle of Ellis Island is a document of an anomaly in the place and in the work of Hine. It’s not about social conditions. It’s about the soul. A woman with a scarf or shawl pushed back, just far enough to show her dark hair, parted in the middle and not recently washed, looks at something past the camera, neither intimidated nor engaged by it. Only her cloth coat with its asymmetrical closure places her as being from the far eastern fringes of Europe. Up close she is nearly beautiful, young and somehow tender, but from further away or with a smaller or darker reproduction, you can see the skull in the set face of the emigrant, as though through hunger, exhaustion, fear, she is close to other borders than national ones. Above her shadowed eye sockets, her forehead gleams as white as the sky behind her. It’s as though we can see through it to the same distant pallor that is the sky or as though both are only absences on the photographic paper.”
Whew! Closed my website and its attendant email a week or so ago. Never went there. Didn’t maintain. It kind of embarrassed me, honestly
Today, closed my LinkedIn account. Again, didn’t groom or visit, so why hang on?
Today, downloaded eight albums of twenty on Flickr (aka “Fuckr”). I hope to close that account within the week. If you don’t know how Flickr fucked their customers, you’re lucky. Let me just say, it’s a triple whammy.
At midday, backed up my blog. The first time in twelve years.
Look at me go!
Meanwhile, I’ve felt like crying all day. It’s okay. I really don’t mind.
Lots of February birthdays to make cloth gifts for! Mine is tomorrow. I feel like I’m getting a Senate impeachment trial this year. Regardless of outcome, it’ll be pretty satisfying.
* top photo baby blanket for Baby M.
Woven frame surrounds photo of quilt printed on linen — still trying to decide how I’ll highlight the elephant. With embroidery?
Yellow roof house is for a blog friend and bottom pouch with gold edge is for a friend in Florida.
You’ll notice I surrounded half this heart with yellow too. It’s subtle.
After three days of itching, I bagged up what I thought was the offending allergen and trotted over to urgent care. Yes, it’s hives. Yes, it could’ve been because of a newly purchased cocoa butter body gel.
After getting my scripts and instructions, the nurse picked up the ziplock bag with the gel in it.
“You can throw that fucking shit out,” I told her.
I may itch and look a pretty sight, but at least I made the doc and nurse laugh!