Monthly Archives: August 2009

whose names

The week has been about change. The next-to-the-last Kennedy of the Kennedys who impacted my generation died. Their narrative, as sad as it was brilliant, as lost as it was redemptive, was part of my narrative, part of the woof and warp of the tapestry of outside events that impacted my life. Jack rose1Kennedy was the first politician I admired. His was the first assassination I endured. The three brothers and those attached to them were so integral to my generation that we knew them by their first names. There was no question who was meant when Jack or Jackie or Bobby or Teddy or Ethel or John John or Carolyn (those last two another generation, another story) was written or spoken.

Now the nearly last of the most known of the beautiful young things they once were is under the green grass, buried near his brothers in Arlington. The bon vivant turned profound is quiet. The baby turned patriarch is done. Photos shown over and over this last week show the handsome family Joe and Rose Kennedy spawned, those million-dollar smiles flashing out as all of them stand together in their bright and shining youth, promise and potential as radiant, as true as their grins. Those thick heads of hair. The way they all lifted their chins a certain way. They’re so beautiful that you can’t imagine anything ever touching them.

But, of course, it did. And it’s touching them touched me. To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under the heaven. Part of my childhood, then my youth, now my maturity, is gone very finally and very completely, under the grass at Arlington. I wonder whose first names my children and their children will know….


to joyce and sandi

My little writing group has made a shift. One of us has moved on. I’ve been luckyTBP_7153_2 to have a safe writing place with these two women. Here’s a doddle after one of our sessions…off the cuff….just words….

1/4/03… soaked all afternoon in the richness of the time with Joyce and Sandi soaked in Houston’s kind winter sun leaves rustling someone hitting an iron rod with a hammer ping went the ring of metal on metal ping sang the iron in the distance faraway dogs’ barks shimmer rustle of leaves shadows play on the deck of my house in early January cold tinged but no shiver in slippers and silk pajamas the richness of listening to these women read their words ideas tumbling bubbling effervescent iron rich heady wine and roses winter roses winter wine tasting of promised seeded unfurling green to come


Mail0001My mother, carefully and kindly guided by her granddaughter, just bought me a birthday present. It was in a pretty bag, but after awhile, the presence of the bag on the coffee table began to bother her, and she kept asking, whose is it? And every time I’d tell her, it’s mine; it’s a present you gave me. Finally I moved it out of her sight.

But not soon enough. When I got home and emptied the bag, in addition to my present, there was a one of the dog’s toys and a chew. 

It made me laugh. Just as finding a soft, single house slipper in a bedside drawer made me laugh. Just as trying to close a wipes box and discovering why it was impossible–her lipstick case buried under the sheets of wipes–made me laugh. 

All of her important papers, identification, insurance, etc. are kept in a basket above the refridgerater, and when my brother had to have the identification, he couldn’t find it to save his life. So the next time I visited, I went through her bedroom, and in that bedside drawer, there it was. At some point, she’d gotten down the basket and taken it. After all, it was hers. 

That’s funny.

yin and yang

From my journal:

May 2001: I dreamed you bold and laughing, naked I sat, at my ease, warm in the blue DSC_0610of your eyes. I woke, old longings, old yearnings, my companions. Awake I went to you. Your eyes were dull, your body thick, the boldness was in my dreams, in my memory. I did love you. Now I love the shadow of the dream. Only in the dream are you everything I always knew you were.


February 2001: Today walking back from La Mexicana I saw a beautiful yellow parakeet flying and fluttering among brown wrens. He was the color of a day-glo magic marker. 

Hello, fellow, I said, are you lost?

He answered, but I’m not certain what he said.

get me some tea

A funny thing has happened on this journey I call my life. 

I grew up watching women do all the household chores, and hearing men, my grandfather Clyde in particular, call out from his penuckle game, Woman, get me some tea. There was no tuliprespect for the domestic chores that kept our home cozy, the cleaning, the cooking, the errands, and I didn’t respect them either. 

Someone I cared about took a long time dying, and I had to help him out, literally and figuratively. He was a creative cook, and in his passing, he had a fussy palate. Somewhere in that, in his delight and interest in what I was doing, I began to see the creativity of a good cook and to find it fun, to find grace in serving what I had cooked to others. This sense of service, this sense of creativity, of ordering, has even spread to housework.

I  have a new  kinship with women I loved but whose work I didn’t know I scorned: Mother, Aunt Eva, Nana, Aunt Lily, others. I think of them as I dust or vacuum: the way Aunt Eva made biscuits from scratch every single morning, how they sat doughy in the pan, and she would take a spoon and press an imprint of its fat bottom into each mound, then spoon some bacon grease in the resulting hollow before placing the pan in the oven, as the aroma of rising biscuits floated through the house and drew us into the kitchen. How Mother always kept our house neat and precise; how she sewed all of my clothes, including my wedding gown. I wonder what was in her mind as she pushed the soft, white fabric of that gown through the pulsing, mechanical needle of her sewing machine. Aunt Lily crocheted and made quilts and dollies, embroidered them all. I sleep on a pillowcase upon which her flowers swirl and cascade. 

Until now I never saw their art: cooking, cleaning, sewing, keeping a family marching forward in cleanliness and with filled stomachs. A quiet art, the art of a good meal, the shine of a dusted table, the precise fullness of an embroidered flower. Ephemeral. Fleeting. Life.