(name that tune)
You know me, the eternal optimist. Little Miss Sunshine. (You wait. I’m going to scan a picture of little me in my coke bottle glasses AND write about my wacko childhood and then you’ll know why that film sang to me. Apparently, to a lot of other people as well.) Is that positive spin I put on things solely for your reading pleasure? Could be, but I think not. You don’t KNOW me know me but, by and large, what you read is what you get. Basically hopeful and energetic, sometimes lapsing into worry and unhappiness. Very ordinary. (I had a boyfriend years ago who used to say repeatedly, until it was meaningless and had become ordinary, "You are so special." And I would say, "No, just regular. " That was my comfort zone and I meant it.
So, on my worry plate right now:
The musician son. He’s got a lot of tour hassles and stress, he’s over extended and Hungry Howie’s swiped some of the band’s music for a national television commercial. They should get free lifetime bad pizza, right? He hasn’t been here to visit us in Florida yet because of his hectic life and you have no idea how much I wish I could get him down here and feed him for a few days.
(Since I started writing this about AN HOUR ago, when I could have sailed through the stream of thought in 15 minutes, I have gotten two calls from musician son, two interruptions from Rich who wanted to sit down and tell me how he had a full day of work and couldn’t be interrupted- he came back the second time to list for me everything he is doing and to schedule a time for lunch- and my step daughter is hovering in my space, trying to figure out how her day of spring break will shape up down here. When she visits here it is with a mind towards food, beach, using the car, food, beach, food, food. That’s because she is on spring break. When Abby comes over between classes it is with a mind towards food. Sometimes, I think a nice change of pace would be a giant plant named Audrey in the corner calling out, "Feed me! Feed me!" And no, there is no contradiction between wanting to feed them and being as annoyed as hell that they keep wanting to be fed, so don’t even go there.)
The main worry I have right now is that, while I am dealing with petty preoccupations, people I care about have big worries, big sorrows and I feel helpless to do anything. One of my closest friends sent an e-mail saying her 26 year old nephew had just died and she was trying to help her sister cope. Now I can’t raise her on the phone because her answering machine is off.
Another very close friend (you know how close when I say these women are BCMA- Book Club, My Ass) is swamped with serious illness in her family. Her sister-in-law is fading fast and a niece who has been more like a daughter, one she has practically raised, has been diagnosed with leukemia. This young woman is just about to celebrate her twentieth birthday. She is spending the month prior to starting chemotherapy giving herself fertility shots so they can harvest eggs because the chemo will probably render her infertile. Then, when she does wrestle this vile illness to the mat, she might still be able to have children. In her online care pages she writes that she hopes she can have another transfusion the day before her birthday so she will have enough energy to stay awake and enjoy the day while she prays for a bone marrow match. (Go get your cheek swabbed. It’s painless. If it was your child, you would be on your knees for every single person who has taken the time and care to do it.) Are these the things a twenty year old should have to be worrying about? And my friend’s distress…I can only imagine.
How about this: Yesterday I worked at the family shelter, helping with a children’s program. There were maybe a dozen homeless children and we provide activities for them while their parents-usually, momma-is out working and getting vocational training. It’s an excellent form of social service: children stay with their parent(s) in simple, very modest 2 room units in a safe, clean building rather than go into foster care. The family’s needs are met for between 60 days and a year (the longer stays mean enrollment in a serious program like nurses aide or computer training) and the parents save their earnings towards housing deposits and the things that are required for a fresh start. Contracts are signed, children are enrolled in school, chores are shared and excellent daycare is provided.
Still. These children are usually coming from crisis that has torn apart their lives, whether it’s domestic violence, eviction, or loss of family income. Sometimes, it’s been an ongoing crisis- substance abuse, children having children or simply the miserable cycle of poverty. Sometimes, it’s a single traumatic event.
We sat around the big table and read The Giving Tree and then every child got a plate full of nuts- peanuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, coconuts, almonds, walnuts. We made a huge mess with crackers and hammers and coconut water and shells all over the place and we talked about the difference between nuts and fruits and legumes and drupes (now perhaps a child knows something you don’t…). In the end I sat with a small boy in my lap; he was quiet and sad on his first day in this new temporary home and he had the softest curls and the blackest skin and all my memories of that scent of little boy child were stirred. We turned away from the larger table and the lesson at hand and instead, we made a small walnut shell boat, filled with pine nut people and we set it afloat in a cup of apple juice.
When I left to come back to my life where I don’t have to work, where I have a second home to come to in the winter, where I fuss about souvenirs, I sat in the car for a while and I felt bereft and helpless. That eased some as the evening went on and I could talk to Rich about the day but still, I’ve been kind of sad since then. Sad that I have such small sorrows and other people don’t.
Today is Bud’s birthday. I called him last night and he gave me the full rundown on his take on the Oscars. He said he likes Ellen Degeneres; she’s a happy dancer in his opinion. He hasn’t seen any of the movies and I told him I thought he would enjoy both Little Miss Sunshine and The Departed and we can rent them on video while he’s here. That way I can leave the room for parts of The Departed. Then for some reason, neither one of us could remember the name of "that Jewish comic who used to host the Oscars" but we were both right on the edge of it. The second I hung up I remembered and dialed right back and yelled, "Billy Crystal!" Bud yelled back, "Merry Christmas to you, too, but don’t you mean Happy Birthday?"
Yes, Bud. Happy Happy Birthday. I’ll feed you cake the moment you get here.
(And if YOU are my 100,000 visitor you have to sing Happy Birthday to Bud out loud, right where you sit- and let me know about it so I can thank you)