Oddments

In search of story


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Disconnections: May 26.18

Some years back, my little granddaughter was poking through my wallet and came across a small photograph of a boy. “Who’s this,” she asked, “and what’s he doing in your wallet?” I explained that he was a student I’d taught back in the long-ago 60s, and that I had resolved to keep it to remind me of the good things about teaching.

The other night I sat in the audience as that same granddaughter performed on the cello in the 8th-grade orchestra concert. In their pink and green hair and trendy jean knee-holes, with arms and legs that seemed to sprout longer even as we watched, they somehow stilled their cosmic exuberance with all eyes on their teacher. They made music and therefore life. They were wonderful. And hilarious.

Yesterday I came to the computer to check the weather before I headed out for Friday errands. And there it was: another school shooting. Noblesville West Middle School. About 40 miles north of me. Again and yet again. All the shootings have hit home, but this was more sinister. I think of the 7th-grade boy in my wallet, who stands for all the students I have known. I think of the eighth-grade orchestra. And I think of the guns and the blood. I cannot unthink it.

 

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Connections: May 13.18

It’s that time again: time to get on my apostrophe soap box. It’s “Mother’s Day” all over the place, but I insist on “Mothers’ Day.” Not only is it a day to celebrate all mothers, but it’s also a day that’s been so homogenized and hysterialized that Mom is what Hallmark has made her. Mothers’ Day hysteria hits hard. Now — heaven help us — there are even pop-up ads to remind us we need to do more.

Back in the day, it was simpler: you snuck someplace and made a heart-rending card out of construction paper and erasures. And you went hanky-shopping with your dad. “Hanky” is short for “handkerchief,” a decorative, often beautiful, piece of cloth we used to blow our noses in. Or for our mothers to spit on and wipe some goo off our chins. Or (we were Catholic) to plop on your head if you were a hatless woman (gasp) entering a church. Hankies were nothing if not versatile.

One year my brother gave Mom the Hope Diamond of hankies, lacy, white, with a very elaborate embroidered “M” on it, much to her bewilderment (her name was Evelyn). What’s the M for? she asked naively. “M for Mom!” he replied, with some exasperation — why did she need to ask?

After Mom died, I threw out many things, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw out her hankies, which now live in a drawer upstairs. Including the one with the flowing regal “M.”

Whatever your memories for the day, dear reader, I hope there is a mom or a grandma in your heart, on the phone, or maybe across the table. Maybe even an old hanky in your pocket.

 

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Connections: May 11.18

Some ancient mythic language

ebbing, swelling, weightless

like liquid air

many-voiced

chorus of Sophocles

bade me stop.

I turned toward the sound

the fullness of new leaves

spring petals

soft as babies

supple in newness

stroked by wind

sibilant and sure

wanting me to know

something.

Still as the dead

I listened

taut

to pluck a word

but there was none.

 

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Connections: May 8.18

I don’t know how to play it

wouldn’t know where to begin

and yet it beams out a gravity

much like a rolling pin

or terracotta flowerpot

pruners, or a hoe

piano or organ keyboard,

a scraper for bread dough,

a pad of lined blank paper

a pen, an artist brush

they make my fingers eager

they give me a head rush

with primal primitive instinct

my fingers stretch, reach out

but it’s really my very self

the pull is all about.

Certain things there are

that, silent, speak to me

make my fingers restless

to do, to make, to be.

 

More thanks to the S.W. Berg Photo Archives.

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