We All Fall Down
Raising a family out of the ruins of the past. Mothering and movies, grief and grace, books and blunders. Recovery without chicken soup.
Friday, May 12, 2023
Time is the answer to everything, isn't it? "Had we but world enough and time..." says Andrew Marvell to his "coy" mistress who may be buying time, rather than biding it.
From Futurity magazine, via my principal, here's "Study Debunks Myth of the Fast Learner." What if I'm only now learning what most of you learned as children? What if I never learn what you know so deeply, you can barely express it? No, says Futurity, you're not behind. You just think you are.
What if we actually know the truth so deep down in our bones that it goes without saying: Love is the answer. Truth is the daughter of time. Practice kindness and compassion and joy in all things. The struggle is real. Black lives matter. Each breath is a precious gift. Focus on your breath and make your exhale longer than your inhale.
Nora is leaving and Mia is making noise about following her out of the nest.
Monday, June 27, 2022
Winter Village Dream/ June, 2022
"I like magic snow!"
"Magic snow? What's that?" And as he described the scene to me, the images rolled out before my eyes.
"Magic snow is when it snows for piles and piles and then they sweep it up, shovel off the road and paths and put all that snow wherever they can, in the yards and off to the side." Now I saw more white falling down, this time in fluffy weightless wisps, and the boy said, "That's magic snow!" The second downfall, he meant, just when you can't imagine where you can put any more.
We kept walking down the lane, me pointing out the cabins and huts made of logs. As I cooed at one rustic house, someone said, "It is what it is" and I recognized the place.
We were there. My sister's house. She did not look at me much while I stayed with her, I did not know if I was welcome, but neither did she ask me to leave either. I pet her blond toddler, who then wandered off. She spent time in her bathroom, sitting on the tile floor, looking into a bright mirrored light for the anti-darkness exposure.
I tried to compliment the things she had, to ask questions and engage her, but when I inquired about the tracks next to the house, the train arrived and it was three burnt out and rusted school buses shackled together on the track, screeching and falling with the engine-less propulsion of a roller coaster, turning a gut-wrenching corner next the house, then falling at a sickening angle down the twist of track, revealing the gaping hole in the side of a bus where anyone inside would need to hang on for life to not fall out.
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Last night at the Board Meeting, I ran into a librarian I respect and love.
"You can't retire!" I said as we bumped forearms, that familiar COVID gesture that I won't stop using because handshakes? Ick.
"Oh, yes, I can!" she laughed. Her hair is a chic cloud of silver.
"Do you have plans for next year?"
"I'm going to take a year and just make things!"
I laughed too, with joy and affirmation at her plan and called out that it sounded like a dream. And maybe limitless creation is my dream, now that I think of it, although I know I'm such a multi-tasker (cough, short-attention-spanned dabbler) that a year of free time would probably mean an avalanche of new opened and re-opened projects.
But I did finish one this weekend, a quick craft that I found on TikTok, melting wax to stick three fingertips in, then closing the fingers together to form three joined wax cuplets that resemble a small flower blossom.
I lit three scented candles, then waited for a pool of liquid to form. We have a candle drawer in the kitchen for birthdays and stinky onion moments, and a yellow birthday cake taper caught my eye. The scented candles were all white so I lit and dripped the thin yellow one over the Paddywax metal box to mix in a little color. The resulting mix was a pale green I loved, even more so for its little dash of complicating soot.
The first dipping in the melted liquid was an intense sensation and the cups took a few long minutes to harden and turn opaque. I sped up the process by plunging the tips of my fingers in ice water, but no matter the temp, I wasn't able to adhere the cups together -- the wax was too thin -- but I managed to produce a few tiny individual blossoms. I pierced them with the tips of a branch left over from a flower arrangement and the result was ethereal, delicate and fragrant.
Saturday, February 26, 2022
When presented with incomplete information, we leap to conclusions.
We are always presented with incomplete information.
Family is everything. Family is culture, nurture, nature, determinism, education, everything.
And we strike our own way.
I saw Baccaria in the hall yesterday and offered her one of my Starbusts. Yes, she did want one and she asked without preamble, "Ms. Fey, do you want to be Black?"
We talk like that. We've known each other for the four years since she was a freshman. She is Melroy's cousin and she was selling pins with a photo of Child's gentle face before his funeral in December.
"Well, um, when I was in college, my idol was that singer, she was Black and wore a gardenia in her hair, Billie Holiday! And I wanted to be her...but my friends..."
Baccaria laughed, as she does, not merrily, but a laugh nonetheless.
"Oh, Ms. Fey." And she sighed, as she does.
I don't blame her. I don't understand her fully, but I know a bit about her. A tiny tiny bit. A surface scratch.
"Ms. Fey, you couldn't be Black. You're not strong enough." She was kind enough to soften the truism with "Ms. Fey, you're my favorite," but we both knew she was right.
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
These Boys Will Break Your Heart, Again
I'm still reeling from the news of the shooting death of Child, a boy I've known for four years ever since he was fourteen in freshman English class.
And thinking about Child, and feeling the pain, still growing, and the anger, perhaps misplaced, and the confusion, maybe from the newness of the grief, brings me back to the moment before Thanksgiving when I learned about Greg.
That is his real name, Greg, because he's not a child whose privacy and family I need to protect. And how I loved that his last name rhymed with mine when we partnered up. And how we did partner!
As high school friends, as brass players in band, as carpooling to and from school, as Rocky Horror fans, as Forensics Team officers at our high school Center High in Kansas City. In the National Forensic League we were lowly officers, something like the office of "Publicity" which basically meant that we planned the end of the year hotel ballroom banquet and we got a day off school to attend a coveted "leadership conference" in a(nother) bland hotel ballroom, but we relished the title. We partnered as a terrible Duet Acting team at one of those NFL competitions (some mild riff on The Three Bears, perhaps), and as prom dates. We made the team of Fey and Day. Like it was meant to be.
I remember a hundred stories over the six years of junior high and high school, as we got closer, and even though I had a low level crush over those years and even though we hooked up a bit towards the end (isn't it always a sign of the end?) Greg was primarily a Friend, the dearest of Friends. I pray that is how he remembered me.
I hope he remembered us well, not just the two of us, but "us" as in all the friend and club groups we overlapped with and danced through, swapping partners and allegiances and not all his friends and girlfriends were mine too but that was okay. He had Spanish club; I had French.
It's the laughing that I can't forget -- near hysterics in a booth at Winstead's on the Plaza, in his car, in the stands at football games for pep band, under the stage for pit band for the different three musicals, in the cemetery where we sneaked in at night with four other friends, at McDonald's where our dear friend Lori worked, at the Punk Dance with Diane, at the Royals baseball stadium, at the secret lake we found down State Line.
Once we left for college, he faded away after a few letters. Someone said he had a girlfriend. I wondered was it me? when I had time to think about him, but I was busy too, swept up in a new school to transfer to sophomore year, a new state, new friends, a rush of quick years and much change.
So when I saw in the memorials on Facebook that so many other friends loved him too, felt as close and as grateful for his warmth and love, and also related the separation, I knew it wasn't just me. He married not long after college and so many of us didn't even know.
I wondered if it was a religious thing -- had he converted? Did our drinking and making out in his brother's attic scare him off? But no, the pics of his apparently happy years were relaxed and comforting -- travels with his wife and daughter, beer steins in Germany, sunny summer lakeside tables, the piazza in Venice.
I'm at peace. A bit surprised that I'm not more sad, because we really were close.
We were sitting on the front step of Uncle Phil and Aunt Ruth's house, a concrete step where we never sat, but that was okay. I didn't see it coming when the topic turned to Prom and I said Tonya and I were going to hang out and watch movies so when he asked, "Do you want to go?" I heard it as a general inquiry and sang out, "Yes! Of course I want to go!" and the turn of his face and his expression as he said, "No, I meant with me," was one I'll never forget.
Monday, November 29, 2021
Oy Vey, These Boys Break Your Heart
I got the news this morning. Four children shot in at a gas station.
(I need to change his name. I am changing his name. When the "17 year old male" in the headline is a boy you knew, that you taught, that you greeted in the hallways at school, that your friend told "be safe" on the last day of break before Thanksgiving, when you know his sister, when his friends are still here in school with you, the headline "17 year old boy killed in shooting" is not a headline, is not a news item, is not an abstraction. It's real as hell. I have changed his name to Child.)
He was in our freshman class. "I just think how could we have done more for him?" said his teacher, my colleague, and it's not a rhetorical question this time. I have been thinking about this all the time, I have been thinking about this particular child.
And what happened in the class we all had together. The two white women and the woman of color. The black and brown boys and girls. The white girl who is also one of those four children.
I need trauma informed teaching skills. I need "a culture of dignity" skills because I am PISSED right now, I've moved on from stunned and I need to maintain the dignity of that white woman in the room and not shame and blame. Because I need to keep remembering effectiveness and longevity.
I need perspective right now and I don't have it.