Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Becoming Witchy

Photo from Eyes As Big As Plates

Crows greet me on still mornings. My favorite bird stays aloof on windy days but will break a still and silent dawn with dear intelligent calls. They roost on the dead thin sticks at the top of our ancient maple, the craggy, ungainly maple whose feet host the fairy garden, whose suckers sprout straight up out of the knotholes, whose massive branches crushed our neighbor's fence one time, his lawn furniture another. Was that the same storm that felled both? Am I mis-remembering? Did I ever tell you about the thrill of the time three crows (is three a murder?) chased a predator hawk down the canyon of our street?

My brain grows clouds. It's aging, that old slow slayer, and I grow more witchy by the day. "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" asks Glinda and Dorothy the innocent replies indignantly, "Why, I'm not a witch at all! Witches are old and ugly!" Glinda giggles.

Lots to giggle about, right, Roz Chaz and Carrie Fisher and Nora Ephron and Julia Sweeney? Thanks for the laughs (and you too, Tiffany Haddish, although you are far far too many years away from joining our coven but we do appreciate your magic.) We cackle at the absurdity -- we were young and now grow old! How strange!

I'm right on the threshold. Balancing between fetching fecundity and stylish sterility. I could still make a baby, maybe. Maybe last month I could've conceived. Made a wrinkly pink old man baby without speech or smiles who stares and takes long slow blinks. Open eyes, closed, open, closed. Is he napping? we'd wonder. No, that's just Smith's long languid slow-motion blinking. Taking his own sweet time. Smitty. My late little love. My disaster baby.

My hair thins; my long face grows more horsey. My hairline starts to grow in unfamiliar patterns. I discover to my horrid fascination that it is not hair growing at my hairline; those are hairs!

The pads of fat that buoy the eyeballs of the young and make them big as cartoons have left me so I compensate with eyeliner, trying for illusion, making a mess. I love my single white eyebrow hair. It's my unicorn.

I read an article of aging beauty tips. Did you know wearing a ponytail is like an instant facelift?! It pulls back all that extra skin and reels back the years! A double elastic band may be necessary.

Because it's all about beauty, right? Some of us, like amazing Aunt Ruth, keep our wits and just lose the tautness.

I straddle the stick. I don't give a shit.

But I have the secret. I know what the young girls don't. Come here, don't be afraid, come closer, I'll whisper it in your ear if you dare to approach this chin, this neck, these beads of eyes in their wrinkled nests: "It doesn't matter." It really doesn't. Your beauty was never your power, just the window dressing for the real secret -- you could make life if you so chose. You are a goddess.

But now I've lost it? Oh no, I cackle with glee, no, that's what makes this age all the more delicious -- another secret revealed -- I STILL have the magic, the power to create life. Maybe not in my womb, but hey, eyes up here! in my mind. See my little baby Smith? Here he is, in my arms. And while he may have pushed his way out my fingers instead of through my bruised yoni yet still he is right here, now, doing that slow blinky thing we love.


The last day of this month one hundred or so of us will descend on Springfield to fight the forces of mendacity, greed and evil that keep our country awash in guns. We will try as hard as possible to be good mahouts, to draw back and control the charging elephants of our rage. I will put on my lipstick, try to act civilized and not scream. I may succeed at that, if nothing else. But I have to at least try.


The girls and Randy make me a beautiful birthday with flowers and streamers and tissue paper blossoms and a gorgeous Alliance Bakery cake. Mia can browse Amazon's recommendations now so she has curated the table of special gifts - I pause in the middle of unwrapping Annie Leibovitz's new album and say, "I just want to stay here forever. Can it be my birthday forever?"

A small rectangular box, weighted from within. I can smell the sweet perfume of the wax, "I love candles!" Then I see the label, "Home Sweet Home" and the outline of a state. The unmistakable squishy shape of Missouri. Mia has bought me a candle to remember Missouri by.

"Oh," I say, mood on the floor. She doesn't know; she has no idea. I am surprised to discover it. How does my oldest not know how painful it is for me to go back to Missouri? How hard the idea of it is?

"You don't know! I guess I've hid my feelings! Do you know how hard it is for me to go to Kansas City? I mean, Grandma's there and Aunt Jeanne and Chloe and your cousin Becky and her kids..."

Of course she doesn't know. I've been hard-selling trips back there for years, working hard to build happy memories for them -- they need to remember a loving grandmother, cousins. It's one of my most important jobs, forging that relationship. And hiding my pain.

But now I'm witchy. The gloves are off. This story is no longer abridged for young readers.

"Mom!" they cry out with disbelief, laughing at my cruelty. "I can't believe you're insulting her candle! It's a birthday present!"

We live in honesty now. The chicks can take care of themselves and I will only reward them with the hard pointy truth.


Ruth went into the hospital last night with abdominal pain. I'll fly out Saturday and hopefully get the chance to tell her again, thank you for being my mom.