Sunday, November 1, 2020

I Forgot to Post in October...Super Busy...

 So here's a string of Tweets I just posted.

It's 5:45 over here in Central Standard Time and I'm up after I don't know, Daylight Savings effed me up, four? hours of sleep since we stayed up to watch SNL, the four of us screaming so loud with laughter at "the floppy floppy birds" and the turtles and Che and that John......and that John @mulaney story in the monologue of the left out girl at the sleepover that had both my teenagers wide-eyed and struck dumb because THAT VERY THING HAPPENED'm awake even though I'm tired.

But it doesn't really feel like the election woke me up although I know it did. I'm up because when I gently rose to consciousness, like I often do in the middle of the night, this time, instead of disconnecting my thoughts and floating away on a fantasy of a more comfortable......a fantasy of a more comfortable bed in some more comfortable far away land, my mind went back in time to work Zooms, then the colleague who said I was such a happy person and my replying "it's a coping device because I had a really fucked up childhood" and it was the exact......right thing to say, even though it was an F bomb on a work Zoom because I'm not mincing my words anymore as I work to recognize how whiteness has fucked us all. And that phrase "really fucked up childhood," although it is as familiar to me as the lines on my own palm......this time the familiar phrase brought up the image of Grandmother Helen Fey walking into our bedroom, Nancy and mine, the bedroom I shared with my little sister, disappearing into the tiny walk-in closet and emerging with the pink dress with a white collar and long pinker...The dress was pink with a white collar and a long pinker scarf, a 70's style dress says my 2020 mind and Her Dress said my 1976 voice, I said, "that's Nancy's" in a voice that was correcting Grandmother, as in "don't take that" as in "you're wrong" as in "don't touch that" typical Helen Fey fashion, the woman whose parents were born in Poland in the 1800's, replied that she was taking it to dress Nancy in for her casket. I don't remember her retort, but I do remember it was not couched in any kind of modification for the 11 year old with the dislocated hip who lay...before her. In typical Helen Fey brutality, my grandmother taught me. Taught me much. And that scene woke me up. I'm grateful, of course, as this spring of waking up to Whiteness has made me a Person for the first time, and People are grateful for every goddamn thing in the world so even this horrific scene of cruelty by an adult to a child who is grieving the loss of her sister brother mother father and has an undiagnosed femur bone dislocated from the hip socket to boot has good lessons for me. I will let you figure out those lessons (hint: compassion, kindness, gentleness, the precious immeasurable value of childhood, protecting the young AND whiteness whiteness whiteness)

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Oklahoma is Everything: "It Was All A Pack of Lies"


We watching Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things with the girls...actually that was after we had blown their minds with Being John Malkovich...actually, Nora might have stayed in her room and Mia watched with Randy and me...the climax of Ending Things had that actor that everyone recognizes but can't place...the blond Every(white)man who resembles a slightly skinnier and younger Seymour Hoffman...his name is Jesse Plemons, I think, and at the climax he sings a strange and beautiful song on stage and even though I played the French horn in the pit band of three musicals and witnessing three weeks of rehearsals will memorize the script and score on your brain even if you don't try, this strange little song did not ring a bell.

So my Interweb research-rabbit-hole-dive dug up the Rogers and Hammerstein "Lonely Room" and before I found Plemons' version, I came across THIS which changed everything, as it should. The character who sings the song is the tortured, tragic Jud the Hired Hand and he will soon die. The rest of the characters will rally and move on and celebrate statehood and marriage with Everyone's Favorite Musical Reprise and Ode to Triumph, "Oklahoma!" The "bullet-colored" disturbance in the force has been eliminated and Whiteness Perseveres!

As has happened over and over in this cliff of a learning curve year. The scales fall from my eyes and I jump up from my computer, rush into the family room where Randy is playing his game and Mia is multi-tasking at the kitchen island, and pronounce, "THE MATRIX IS REAL!" Then again, for the people in the back, but this time with a lispy Valley-Girl pronunciation, squared shoulders and a sassy finger in the air:

"The. May. Trix. Is. Re-YUL."

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Teacher Hat

 I wrote once that the summer half of the year was when I wore sunglasses on my head all day every day and the winter half of the year was when I switched over to a warm stocking cap, all day, every day.

That's not what I actually wrote; it was more succinct, but you get the idea.

I'm fully in teacher mode -- I even have a teacher Twitter account and a separate snarky Twitter account but I keep forgetting to reTweet Tweets with f-bombs only on the snarky account! -- so I'm blogging mostly over HERE.

Funny, you would think it was Teacher Hat v. Cindy Hat, or Teacher Blog v. Cindy Blog. As if one is a role and one is truly me. Nope. The teaching work feels elementally vital right now, feels like a true exploration of self, feels like me.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

If I Had Time Enough

Had I time enough, I would write an Ingalls Wilder styled post about my beautiful commencement to summer when I drove down to Plainfield in June to pick wild asparagus with dear cousin Becky. I would add some Garth Williams style charcoal line drawings of the flora beside the creek where Becky and Brad, her oldest son of three now grown into men, taught me to find the asparagus spears. I would describe how happy the dogs were, brushing down through the thick grass that lined the steep creek bank, splashing across the shallow stream and bounding back up the other bank, over and over, their mouths in open happy panting smiles. I would describe how patiently Becky and Brad pointed out to me the overgrown asparagus ferns with their Martian branches and helped me distinguish the older brown and wispy fallen dried ferns that may signal where baby shoots could be found underneath. I would write about how happy I was to be with Becky, the daughter of my mother's sister, my country cousin, the girl I played with when we were children, then separated from in the 80's when she had children and I had college, then reunited with when I moved back to Chicago and keep reuniting every year we get together and realize never really were separated. Her mother was my mother's only sibling and her mother tried to take me and my siblings after the plane crash in '69, but my father's family fought her in polite and vicious letters and with lawyers and Aunt Joan resigned. 

Aunt Joan reading to Nancy and me


After we had gathered pounds of spears by the creek, we backed up the bumpy dirt track out of the cornfield and back past a house on the main road that Brad had pointed out to me on the way out.

"See that house? The front yard is full of asparagus. See there? There? And there's more," Brad had said when we first passed the house. "I think that's a rental house. Last year I pulled in the driveway and and the guy comes out with a rifle."

I saw a mid-century ranch set way back on its corn field acreage, with a unpaved driveway and an overgrown yard. I hadn't learned how to spot the ferns yet so I couldn't see what Brad was seeing.

On the way back from the creek, I've found the eye. I can see gorgeous low spears and overgrown ferns.

"Let's pull over and I'll do the commando crawl through the grass!" I say, all excited at my new skill.

If I had time, I would give you the pickling recipe with ginger that I used to put up the asparagus spears in tall glass jars. I would tell you about the quick visit we made to Aunt Joan and how it hurt to not be able to hug her and how awkward it felt, that early in the summer, to wear a mask. I would tell you how I came back to her place last Saturday, this time with the girls and Nora's friend Billa, this time with masks that felt fine on the face and the girls brightening up Joan's face with a coordinated cheer.


 Mia, Nora and me at La Esquina in Todos Santos with Ted Hughes' The Iron Giant

Monday, June 22, 2020

Daughter in Labor 5/19/2020

I am putting away the dishes as I sneak glances over at her working on the floor of the living room. 
The dishes I handle include pieces of her pottery, 
a cream colored spoon rest, 
small shallow bowls. 
Saucers for collecting the chopped aromatics before they go in the pan. 
Her ceramics are smooth with shiny fired glaze on top,
rough and unglazed underneath. 
Warm earth-tone colors, 
precious utility. 

Mia's working in black and white right now, 
clipping out images from my old postcards of older photographs: 
a Bruce Weber couple on a motorboat, 
Billie Holiday caught by a flashbulb while looking in a mirror, 
Edith Piaf mid-laugh. 
She is crafting a collage that will eventually make its way to the mailbox 
and then to her art teacher. 
A quick fun assignment, 
due in twenty-five minutes.

When she was working her way out of my body, 
I shook her father awake, 
then handed him a paper that read 
"Don't ask questions." 

It was a page of advice to birth helpers so as not to distract the laboring woman. 
No surprise, 
he let loose an urgent string of queries. 

Now I am doing my best to keep silent, 
let her work, 
don't distract, 
although I want to get inside her brain right now, 
find the secret to her process, 

"How does your doubt go away? 
 How can you work so fast, 
so free?"

Friday, May 15, 2020

I Will Never Think About Them The Same Way Again

A crisp new twenty.
Elevator buttons.
That pen on the chain attached to the clipboard at your doctor's office.
Your doctor's office.

Buffet line tongs.
Mother's Day Brunch in the hotel ballroom.
Sharing a taste.
Waterfalling from a friend's water bottle.

Sneeze guards. 
Hot bars. 
Restaurant plates. 
Restaurant silverware. 
Restaurant chairs.
Restaurant tables.
Restaurant menus. 
No, I will think the same way I've always thought about restaurant menus.

Library books. 
NO. NOT library books. I refuse to rethink library books.

Golf cart steering wheels.
Piano keys. 
Light switches. 
A dealt deck of cards.

Rental cars. 
Bus straps. 
The cord you pull to tell the bus driver your stop is coming up.
Subway poles. 

The work refrigerator where you store your lunch. 
Copy machines. 
Drawer handles. 
The pencil sharpeners hung on the wall of every classroom.
First day of school handouts. 

The edge of the Pepsi can. 
Birthday candles, or rather, what we do to lit ones.
Birthday cake. 
Bowls of candy. 


The five-second rule. 
There is no more five second rule.

Warm hugs.
Hugs hello.
Hugs goodbye.