4th July Independence

The Fourth Of July was not my mother’s holiday.  She grew up in another country. As with Thanksgiving, she would state, “This is not my holiday.  I did not grow up with it, but I will do it for you children..” So, we would have hot dogs and hamburgers and most importantly apple pie.  She would laugh and say the garden knew it was a holiday as it was red, white and blue -hydrangea, roses and daisies.  We’d sit out in the backyard to catch glimpses of the fireworks from the park.  It meant ice cream.  Sometimes, sparklers.  Illegal, illicit glittery sparklers with the other neighborhood children.

As time marched towards adulthood, it became a day to sleep late and not work, followed by the requisite barbecue and pie.

The summer I graduated college I was looking for work.  I went to my local neighborhood dive.  Most of the people there were people I’d been at school with.  I was an introverted nerd who had blossomed in my time away.  I was shocked when a football team jock invited me to spend the 4th with him in Montauk, at another classmate’s house party.  I told him I had to ask my father.  Said father was furious, not that I wanted to away for the holiday with a boy; but rather that I had said I had to ask.  So off we went.  I remember getting  there early in the day.  Just about everyone was from high school and the cool kids no less.  Despite my blossoming, I felt as if I was in a foreign land.  We all grew up drinking.  It was the era.  But these people had started way too early in the day for me.  When it was dark, H the host, suggested that T and I join him and his girlfriend and sleep on his boat.  I don’t do boats.  My grandfather was a ship’s pilot and drowned.  Yes, this was over 50 years later but I had and have an innate antipathy towards boats.  Evening falls and finds us in bed.  Hey, red blooded American twenty somethings! So, lying on my back and thinking of England and see fireworks.  Yes, they’re exploding in the harbor or wherever the hell we are.  I say, “I am seeing fireworks.”  Poor thing took it seriously.  The romance was short-lived.  It was the Son of Sam Summer and that coupled with his fear of spiders cooled things down quickly. The other takeaway was that my high school and forever boyfriend was in California at the time.  Some years later, he returned to NY.  The first phrase out of his mouth was, “What’s this I hear about you sleeping with H on his boat?”  Uh, wrong guy and it’s a truly tiny country.

Next decade(30’s):

“Paris was a place you hide away if you felt you didn’t fit in.”  from  “Every Picture Tells a Story”

I found myself in Paris for July 4 for pret a porter and my job.  I knew I’d get a comp day.  Imagine being paid to do this?  I love Paris and it was not my first trip.  I went all over the city.  My employers had a “rule” that I couldn’t come home without a roll of film.  It was unusually  cold and I wasn’t prepared.  On the Metro, a gentleman thought I was homeless.  One thing, whenever I travel, I note what makes me an American.  If I hear the Star Spangled Banner, it gets to me.  “land of the free; and the home of the brave”

Next decade – the Millennium

I find myself on July 3 starting at a monolith which I call the Bank, in all its omnipotence.  The HR orientation woman tells me, “There is no early leave at the Bank.”  I look at her quizzically as why are they discussing retirement when this is my first day?  She explains that early leave means for the 4th.  This is good because I am already planning my own early leave of staying just a year.  So much for plans.  I end up staying for 15 years through a new marriage, the death of both my parents and the onset of my lack of mobility.  Yesterday was the 18th anniversary.  So much of me was tied up there and still is.

Next decade (40’s)

I am at the Bank.  I have been seeing the man I will marry for about 9 months.  He has a room in a house full of guys.  The owner is a friend of my brother’s.  He has AIDS, which he denies; smokes copious amounts of weed and drinks heavily.  He  is one of the sweetest guys I have ever met.  We barbecue in the backyard.  And of course, we drink.  Everyone laughs as I discover I have drank a whole bottle of rum.  They laugh again as I try to get up the stairs into the house in my dizzy flipflops.  Tom and I sit on the lawn and watch neighborhood fireworks.  I am happy

Same decade(50’s):

We move.  We laugh as our house is close to the police precinct and the display of fireworks emanating from that direction is spectacular.  We sit on the step and move back and forth between the front and the back.  The noise continues till morning.  My reflection is that we are lucky to live in a country where the explosions and the lights are not bombs

Present Day

It’s hot and steamy.  Normally, this my weather.  Instead, the heat has made me captive in home and body.  The fans spin and the A/C is on.  I look out windows and at security cameras instead of being outside, half dozing, reading in the afternoon heat.  No barbecue, no apple pie, no fireworks of any  kind.  I have been told that currently I am grieving the Bank or more precisely my work there and my life.  A couple of things -it may be illogical but I see not being at the Bank, the beginning of my current decline.  I became complacent.  I didn’t learn enough new things.  Most importantly, I didn’t make a plan.  Even if I had, there was no plan to lose mobility.  Today, for now, I am dependent rather than independent.  However, I still have my mind! So, land of the free, home of the brave.

 

Convergence, Synergy, Serendipity

I have been out of work for four months.  What a strange phrase to use.  Let’s rephrase:  I have not been paid or going to an employer for four months.  Work is continual and takes different forms.

I was/am beginning to feel a little despair, desperation.

I have always believed things happen for a reason.

I also have wanted to take this time to clear up around the house.  I had let everything go when  I had a job.  Plus, I have hoarding tendencies.  I literally took everything off the top of my desk.   I found a little pamphlet that a friend gave me about 25 years ago.  I did warn you.  The pamphlet was an abridged “The Power of Positive Thinking”.  My parents had the book.  I can picture it in the bookcase at the top of the stairs.  As they aged, they moved things and got rid of things.  I don’t know that is a book I ever would have kept.  I never cracked its spine when I was growing up.  But now, I found this little pamphlet and threw it in my bag when I was going into NYC for an interview.  I started to read it.  Last time I was without work and my first marriage was breaking up and I was probably clinically depressed, my mother typed up a prayer for me.  It helped enormously.  There it was in the pamphlet!  A good sign.  The pamphlet was making sense to me.  I do have a deep faith sometimes.  Sometimes, as is natural, it wavers.  I also read and am a huge fan of Julia Cameron – Good Orderly Direction.  There you go and I am off to the races.

Next event:  I am in the car and hear the beginning of an interview with Marlon James, the first Jamaican to win the Booker prize.  I am half Jamaican and read Caribbean literature at uni.  I dabble in it from time to time but had stopped.  So I decide to get the book from the library.  Of course, I don’t remember its name.  When I do the library search, other West Indian novelists show up.  I order some Colin Chaner.

I was a student of Earl Lovelace’s years ago.  I had no idea who he was until 10 years or so, maybe even closer, a friend of mine mentioned him.  I immediately read him and adored it.  His writing was never mentioned or touted at school.  He only taught for a year.   I just found out that a book of his came out to serious acclaim a year after I studied with him.  No one said anything at school.  In retrospect, I wonder.  Was it racial?  Or was it “intellectual”?  This was a department that touted Coover and McElroy.  I decide let me read some more Lovelace.  Another library search.  Ha, there is a book on Lovelace and Caribbean literature on Goodreads.  The library doesn’t have it.  I go to Amazon.  Well, I am not working so I can’t buy it but I will.  I read the blurb and information on the author.  I call my friend and tell her I should have written that book.  I could have written that.

Onto next topic.  Since I have been at home, I have realized that somewhere along the line, I stepped off my life.  I had older women friends that believed I could and would run a major US corporation!  That had not been my interest for years.  When I was much younger, I had had three major ambitions.  First, right out of high school, I wanted to be the next Henry Kissinger.  Then, I wanted to be the next Calvin Klein.  I had a therapist point out that I wanted to be men.  It never crossed my mind.  It was the position, not the gender.  Last, I wanted to be either president of Macy’s or Saks.  I am not aggressive enough and lost that dream.  Still corporately, I was chasing that vice presidency.  I started the job that just ended,  in 2000.  I knew I wasn’t going to stay there.  Ha!  I was there 15 years.  I stopped and stepped off.  I can’t figure out the complete why.  Yes, my parents died. My father’s death left me responsible for my mother.  She had dementia.  I severed relations with my brother.  I married.  He’s an alcoholic but presently in recovery.  That was pure, utter living hell. And I developed this condition.  Ok, I guess putting it down on paper, it’s enough to derail most people.  But like my mother used to say, “Is your name everyone else?”

Next, there’s an annual short story competition that I have submitted to in the past.  Three years ago, the topic was complicated families.  I was excited and drafted an outline of related stories.  I had a central piece firmly in mind.  Work intervened and I put it aside.

Full disclosure:  my father was a writer.  I was always intimidated to write in front of him as it were.  He was very critical.  When he was older I used to take him to the Edgars, the mystery writing Oscars.  It was always filled with “auteurs”.  People always questioned me on what I was writing, shop talk.  At the last one we attended the year he died, we spoke about it.  He knew I wrote at home and wanted to know what was going on.  I told him that I really didn’t think I was going to do anything till he was gone.  He told me to write and write now.  It was the greatest gift he gave me.  However, he died a few months later and it sort of sucked everything out of me.

So, I am home, not going into work and I am going to finish this complicated family 750 word story and I can’t.  I am blocked.  I do not like the way I am writing.  I call my friend and she suggests I write around it.  I am cleaning and praying (due to the Power of Positive thinking).

Next, a friend from high school is also clearing and comes across her journals where my name is mentioned.  I tell her you must be in mine, too.  I pull them out but can’t touch them.  Two weeks ago or so, I am writing in my current journal and my husband questions me about the whole concept. I pull one of the high school ones off the night table.  An unfinished letter to this very woman falls out.  Queue the Twilight Zone music.  I start flipping through this decades old book.  I find writing that is excellent and then realize it was mine!  Talk about squandering gifts.  It is disturbing to me.

Next:  Plan B.  As I was doing this clear out, I came across folders stuffed with my old writing.  I decide I will type or retype this material.  This will put it in a more stable format than yellowing, crumpled sheets and may rekindle writing. Now, over the past few years, I have  been talking to my friend about the great Carib- American novel and we have also discussed themes of the immigrant experience, what you take, what you leave, what you bring back.  Yesterday, I reach into the drawer to start my project .  I am stunned.  It is the “great Caribbean-American” novel, outlined and with some pages!  The ideas are outlined in some detail.    I have no recollection of starting this. I don’t remember writing this at all.  It is decades ago.  It’s not bad, in fact parts of it are good!

The universe has sent me a clear message. It’s time to write.

Auld Lang Syne

New Year’s Eve of course has been a topic of conversation for the last week or so. It’s been discussed with the kids, online friends and my friends.  I always say that I don’t like it and I can count the number of times I’ve been out on both my hands.  I preferred being home, either with my loved ones or by myself.

So a walk down the New Year’s of my past.

The first time I went out I was a teenager.  I am thinking about 16-17.  It was a group of girls – Debbie L, Susan W, Judy G and me.  We had become friends through political action.   It wasn’t a sleepover, someone’s parents must have picked us up.  All I remember was almost from the beginning, I wanted to be home.  I had been looking forward to it, first New Year’s out and all that.

Next time was in Jamaica.  My mother and I went down to see my Grandmother.  I already knew I didn’t like going out.  My favorite cousin asked me to come out with him and his wife.  I said no.  Grandma said yes.  I thought it might have been the last New Year’s I would ever spend with her and it was.  She died in December the following year.  She insisted.  So at the last minute I said yes and put my gown on.  Cousin rustled up a “date” for me with the name of Elvis.  Elvis was the same age as my baby brother. It was a fabulous party in Kingston.  There was a private tennis court, in ground pool.  I was MISERABLE.  I put such a damper on things that we left almost immediately after midnight.

Glutton for punishment.  The next year I went out with my two friends. See my previous blog “Politics, Friendship and Mortality”.  That so did not work out.

Skip to almost a decade later.  I was seeing someone, an alcoholic in recovery, my specialty.  He asked if I wanted to go to a party.  I told him I didn’t want to go to anyplace crowded mostly with people I didn’t know and noisy.  It was a Black and White themed party but he told me it wasn’t formal.  You know me and my clothes. I had the gowns. In fact, when I was married the first time, my mother-in-law didn’t understand why I didn’t want a wedding gown.  I was gowned out.  We arrive at the party.  It is formal.  We are the only two people not dressed formally.  It is packed with people I don’t know, noisy and crowded and he doesn’t kiss me at midnight.  I miss my family desperately.

Ah, another one.  I broke up with above.  Very messy and a story for another day.  My family always hated him.  My brother announced that I couldn’t be alone and scooped me up for a party at his former girlfriend’s house.  We are that kind of people.  Miserable again and all I can remember was that the little children had dirty feet.  I made my brother take me home before midnight.

Fast forward almost a decade.  I was mad at the man (we always got back together) I had been to the previous party with and thrown him out the house on Dec. 29.  He had turned on Howard Stern on my radio.  What can I say?  I went out that night by myself and met someone.  We went to brunch the next day and New Year’s Eve he asked me out to dinner.  We went with another couple and it was bearable and I was home well before midnight.  Everyone said I must like him since I went out on New Year’s  I guess.  I married him disastrously.

Two years after that we went to Watch Night service at the church.  I liked it. He hated it. There were less than 5 people there.  One of whom was 90!  Praying the New Year in made sense to me.

The marriage was done by the following year and I spent the next years either home with my parents, or alone or had dinner out with the man I lived with for awhile.  Even then, I hated being away from my family.

Just about a decade passes and I am dating Buster the Biker.  He has disappeared for most of the week after Christmas but we have plans to go to the bar we drink at.  My brother is there.  I don’t hate it but am not really happy.  I wanted my parents. Continue reading

Politics, Friendship, and Mortality

I just found out a few hours ago that one of my childhood friends passed away in his sleep last night.  Losing anyone so young is hard.  Well young is relative but I still feel relatively young and as my former sister-in-law said earlier this year “anyone dying before 80 is young.”

So, my mother worked with his father and we grew up on the same street.  His dad drank heavily and so did he but that’s what we did then.  He transferred in high school to an exclusive Catholic high.  I went to college with 6 boys from that school.  They told me that his drinking so disgusted them that they themselves threw him off the bus.  We used to drink at the same bar in our late teens and early twenties.

A memory – the New Year’s Eve  I was 21, I ended up at a party at his house with my two best friends.  The other Tress(same name) and I had dates.  Let’s put it this way, she was going out with Donnie and when I was around we used to double with his best friend who was called Hoppy, seriously.  He was far from hoppy but around 6 foot something and a solid 200 pounds plus.  He was a time filler for me.  Our other friend was just along for the ride.  Our original plan was to have a sleepover at my parents and then the guys came up with this party plan.  Somehow towards the end of the evening we ended up at J’s house.  His parents were there and some others too.  Not mine; not only did they no longer go out on New Years anymore but my mother didn’t like his father – read heavy drinker.  And it must have been very heavy as the first time I was drunk in public  was at her boss’s home(same company)  when I was around 16.  Different era, different mores.  Anyway,  Hoppy takes me over to his parents “Ma, Dad, this is the girl I have been telling you about.”  Big shock to me.  I don’t, didn’t do relationships, especially at that age.  So I am doing the drunken nice girl chat with parents and when I get away, M,  my other friend is in Hoppy’s lap, cooing to him “I want it and want it now.”  Different era, stumbled out of the house and walked the two long blocks home including one block that was a ballfield.  And it was a four lane road opposite parkway woods and a parkway.  A drunk 20-something couldn’t do that now.  Went into the house and my parents called out and asked where everyone else was.  The other Tress is with Donnie at J’s house and M?  M is f*cking her brains out with Hoppy”  Now you have to understand that was a big evil word then and I am known for not using “bad” words.  Upshot?  Parents yell at me for the profanity and M  comes in much later.  The other Tress never spoke to her again.  I am more forgiving but have to admit that I saw her in the subway 20 years ago or so and she was completely grey! Revenge is a dish best served cold.

At that point in time,  J was getting his life back together.  We used to hang in the same bar and have drinks. He was working at the local grocery store stocking frozen food.  He was going back to school.  He was very, very smart.  We had always been in the advanced class.  Then he said he made a girl pregnant that he didn’t even really like (it may have been the alcohol talking) and that was it.

Fast forward years and the advent of FB.  He was mad crazy about his grandson and was a successful guy.  Our high school always has a picnic and three years ago, I went.  Topic for another day.  There’s a candid shot of the two of us jabbering away.

 

But and there is always a but, he was far right and I am far left.  I grew up in Levittown and far right is the way most people lean but back in the day things didn’t seem as absolute.  I always knew that my views were not held by most.  J and I had a teacher in 7th grade who on reflection probably was in the John Birch society.  I vaguely reflect an argument over my not saying the Pledge of Allegiance with J.  Still, see above, we drank together.  However, I just couldn’t take it on FB.  As we and society have aged, we have become more polarized.  I hate hate speech.  Uh, yeah Levittown – 99.6 or 99.7 white when I was growing up.  I was at a high school dinner in Levittown a few summers ago and they were talking about how Nixon was right with Watergate not ‘Nam but Watergate.  Put Obama into the picture and just imagine.  I have only unfriended one person on FB and it was another elementary school onwards person with racist hate.  So, I hid J.  I only saw innocuous likes.

I knew he had moved back onto the Island from a neighboring state.  Today,  I see that he was right here in my town.  He was truly a part of my growing up.  Because I hid him, I didn’t know.  We could have and should have been able to move beyond politics to that common childhood.

When did we as a society become so divisive?  I recently read that people are deciding where to move based on the overall political makeup of an area.  What happened to us?  Where is the veneer of tolerance?  Fake it till ya make it works sometimes.  We are cutting off discourse and therefore growth.  I am guilty.  I am thinking of what I missed the last few years by cutting J off.  It makes this loss huger.

We don’t know what Fate holds for us, why waste time.

I mourn for J and for missteps.

Carpe Diem.  RIP J and I’ll be lifting a glass to Auld Lang Syne.

Flip Flop Girl

Somehow I never posted this:  And it’s summer and no flipflops:

I love flip flops.  I always have.   When I was little, the other little girls wore them.  I wasn’t allowed except for the pool.  We called them zorries or thongs.  My mother called them slam patters.  My mother had very definite ideas about children and shoes.  In the spring I wore saddle oxfords, white.  They had to be polished every Sunday night with that horrid white polish.  As soon as I was old enough not to wear them.  They became fashionable.  It is one trend that will never work for me.  In the summer, something like the Greek fisherman’s shoes.  Buckles and perforations.  In the winter, suede ghillies that had to be brushed.  Not fun.

I got away from home and started wearing them in summer on the beach.  They were like 19 cents and unfashionable.  I had more than one pair.

I met a man who wore flip flops and loved the beach.  Well, I still have his flip flops.  I would get all colors and kinds.  I would wear them with everything.

I went to a party in a turquoise mini skirt at the start of fall with black patent flip flops with a fake diamond in the center.  Diamonds on the soles of her shoes.

Then I married someone who didn’t wear flip flops and things just spiraled downwards.  He didn’t like the beach because there was sand.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I left and moved home to my parents.  By that time, my mother would wear them to water the lawn.  And I did have a few that I wore with censorious views.

I moved in with another man, older.  He knocked the joy right out of me.  I left.

I got an apartment and bought pink platform flipflops with pink flowers.  My best friend same over and said Thank God you are back.  “What do you mean?”  “You are wearing flip flops again”  From then on, it was flip flops in the summer, even at work.  And I work in a bank.  During the blackout of 2003, I walked out of New York City in a pair of black platform flip flops with glitter straps.

People bring them back for me from trips.  I have ones from the Far East and from Hawaii. I could go on and on.

And up until two summers ago, I was still wearing them at the bank – gold ones, silver ones and black patent. The gold ones are still under my desk.  At one time I had over 10 pairs of shoes under my desk.

I can’t wear them any more!  My feet no longer grip them.  This destroys me.  It’s my persona.  I miss me.  Instead I have been reduced to tie shoes – back to my childhood.  This is not right.  I mean really. No flip flops?  Also no beach, no walking.  This cannot continue.

So what do I do?  I’ll tell you, I haven’t thrown out a pair, even the pink platform ones.

With work this summer, maybe I can wear them again.

Teeth and Age

I read a long time ago that if you dreamt of losing your teeth, you were dreaming about age.  In a non-coincidence just before my 30th birthday I dreamt all my teeth fell out.  Now I am older and definitely have teeth issues.  In fact, I believe teeth are at the root (Ha, not ha) of my present predicament.  The hole in my mouth.  Recently, the bridge and crown covering that rogue tooth was removed.  The remainder has to go but I have been trying to hold off as I have an important meeting with the head of my company July 31.  I need to be able to talk and look healthy.   And yes,  my health is important but if I have no job or a miserable one, my health will also be impacted negatively.

Today, I took our 12 year old niece to a bracelet making class for her birthday.  Just the two of us at an adult class.  She told me how she feared 13.  It’s the end of childhood and she will be a teenager.  A child after my own heart as she has 11 months to go.  Today is also the day of my high school picnic. SUSAN GRADEvery year on this weekend in July, my high school which closed in the 80’s has an all class picnic.  I grew up in Levittown and as I explained to my niece not only were there people in your class but whole families you grew up with.  I literally was in the same class with one boy from second grade through my first year of college  I went two years and then stopped.Susan and Jerry Dumas July 2012  I find I revert to high school and try to disappear. I was quiet and odd.  Now I am louder and odd.  I explained to my niece when I was at school being smart was not looked up to.   I also hate looking the way I do.  The first year I went without the brace.  The second year I had to.  Now, I have to use a cane.  I can’t STAND the OMG what happened to you!!! And the pity.  Don’t tell me it’s in my mind either.  Because of mobility, it’s hard for me to get up and move around.  The first year we went my husband was anxious as he thought he wouldn’t know anyone.  He is younger than me and grew up several towns over.  You can tell where this is going.  He recognized more people than I did.  Recognize is relative.  We are older and balder and broader and greyer. Me,  I am the gimpiest next to the guy that my husband knew who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. So,  when I think I see someone I recognize I can’t walk quickly enough to talk to them.  And here’s another reason I don’t go anymore, every year after the picnic someone dies!  First year someone got run over by a cab, 2nd year a guy who grew up behind me was hit by a garbage truck, last year someone from my class was killed by a wrong way driver.  Why tempt fate?

So jewelry with niece, leather wrap bracelet, nicer than hippie ones, safer than picnic.  However, all the nostalgia and seeing things again through 12 year old eyes.  We leave the class and part of the rogue tooth crumbles and comes out.  Irony and age.  Now I have another hole in my mouth, more poison loose in my body.  A stunning reminder of aging on a reunion day.