Oddments

In search of story


10 Comments

March 27.21: Coping

Hope is the thing with feathers,

according to the poet;

this wind-coiffed matted stalwart

is adamant to show it.

Waterlogged, bedraggled,

moroser by the hour,

he watches plashy pond,

indomitable and dour.

But persevering, patient,

resolute in attitude,

it isn’t raining rain, he says,

it’s raining fortitude.

I salute unpretty Hope,

my admiration bestirred:

it may be the thing with feathers,

but it’s surely a tough old bird.

 

With thanks to Emily Dickinson.

And to the purists I make no apologies for “moroser.”

It’s a poem. Ergo, poetic license.

 


9 Comments

January 26.21: Coping

As you know, dear reader, I am an introvert. I love quiet. Forever the firstborn, I play by myself contentedly.

However, I do not crave a hut in the desert or a cave hidden by vines. Which is what this COVID thing is beginning to feel like.  After a while, even an introvert feels the tedium of her own company. Then a terrible thing happens: she eats. Why is it that eating is the antidote to tedium? While I ponder the answer to that, I eat some more.

Yesterday I caught myself headed to the kitchen again and gave myself a stern talking-to, made a right turn and headed upstairs, where I plunged into no one’s favorite project: culling the past.

I come from a scrapbooking family, and I followed that tradition, starting in grade school. I am not talking about those tidy, starched, color-coordinated Martha-Stewart types of scrapbooks, but the old-fashioned kind, with real scraps, bits of life as it was lived. Messy, haphazard, in a rag-tag glued chronology. Just like life.

I attacked the scrapbook that held the years from college graduation to marriage, 1966 to 1971. There were strangers in there, but the strangest one of all was me. Have you met your young self recently, dear reader? Did you recognize each other?

If you are now your young self, just file the matter for future reference, when your seasoned self happens upon you. And may you meet in a kinder time.

 

 


13 Comments

December 8.20: Coping

Yesterday my phone quit. Disheveled, wild-eyed, I scrapped my to-do list and headed for the phone store, where I took my place on the proper social-distance marker. It appeared a long wait was ahead; I was right. A cool-headed young man, the lone employee, was trying valiantly to take care of two accounts with a small masked throng gathering.

In all, I stood for about an hour, enjoying my steady intake of carbon dioxide.  At one point, the cool-headed employee offered snacks; this was not encouraging: do people wait so long there that they have to be fed?

My hips aching, my face steamed, my spirit sagging from the pure misery of being stuck in a world of gizmos, I was dimly aware that more customers had come in behind me. And suddenly everything changed. “Put your mask on!” “Shut up!” This began a shouted rage among three customers.

The anger was intense on both sides. It was impossible not to notice how close to the surface this anger was. The flare-up was too loud, too quick, too easy. The furious unmasked stormed out.

Finally someone looked at my poor phone and said I needed a new one. I drove across the street to Target and bought some Christmas M&Ms instead. Mint M&Ms.

The vicious rumor that my phone dates from the rule of Charlemagne notwithstanding, I am not adjusting well to this. I don’t want a phone. I want some peace. And reason. While my hat’s off to the cool employee who responded so professionally to the outburst, even the powers of Christmas M&Ms couldn’t undo its effects.

In this past year, I have seen much kindness and patience among strangers. It is, I fear, wearing thin.


12 Comments

November 28.20: Coping

My grandmothers were daughters of immigrants. One grew up in a Chicago tenement; the other grew up in the coal country of Pennsylvania.

What does this have to do with me in a plastic tent? Making do.

Do you know about making do, dear reader? It’s a way of life when you don’t have what you need or want. You make do with what you have. Just ask my grandmas.

Am I saying that making do today is the same as what it was for my great-grandparents? Hardly. But the inventiveness to make do may be the same.

My son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids hosted Thanksgiving most inventively on their deck. The temperature squeaked to 50 with a nip and it could have been cold. But they made do in most remarkable ways: I had a Granny Tent! They tell me this amazing contraption is for watching soccer games. But with one old lady and one heater it is a regal Granny Tent. Add one old arthritic Jack Russell on the arthritic old lady’s lap, and a blanket around both, and you have the perfect toasty throne, the shedding of the Jack Russell not exactly an ermine cape but still a thoughtful contribution to layered warmth.

(The Jack Russell came post-dessert, needless to say. Their two dogs spent the entirety of Thanksgiving dinner making Precious Moments eyes at us. They wanted turkey but had to make do with warm laps.)

Most certainly we cannot make do when it comes to grief and human loss. But for those who tried to celebrate Thanksgiving carefully, there must have been a national make-do movement. Many made do with Zoom. Some made do with soccer tents. Therein, and not in the familiar table, lies tradition.

 

 


5 Comments

November 23.20: Coping

Fear is served,

heaped, cold, on unseen platter

where empty table

speaks to us.

There was picnic once,

soda fizz

and bright mustard,

where now only air

teasing whispers from

dry grass.

In barren quiet

the words come:

what if I’m the only one?

 

 

In this country, dear reader, we enter Thanksgiving week torn. No: shredded. How do we celebrate isolation and dread? If we try to “count our blessings,” how are we not trivializing the losses among us?

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg for this poignant image.