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She is everywhere: on my doorstep, in my kitchen cabinets, my pantry, my bathtub, my closets. On my walls, on the piano, hanging from my balcony railing. When I bake, I take sugar from the canister that says "SUGAR" in her handwriting. The environmentally friendly detergents for the dishwasher and the laundry come from under her sink. I just bathed using hand-made organic soap she gave me several birthdays ago. On the dining room table, a pear and two oranges sit quietly on the big square white plate that is probably the only plain white item she ever owned.
Like Pavlov's dog, my ears perk up every time I hear the key in the lock of the condo that is no longer hers. I want to open my door for a hi and a hug and see what she's wearing today and where she's been. For coffee or lunch with friends, for a walk, to Whole Foods, a meeting, a class, a museum, Edmonds, on a ferry ride... I want her to open her door and have Andye slip out and around my legs into our hallway, where he'll meow plaintively for a while but not want to leave.
She changed the way I dress. Not actively, but by example, and by gift. I tramped around Italy in flowered patent-leather shoes that I fell in love with after seeing them on her feet. We bought the same dark red pants because she tried them on first and rolled up the bottoms and they looked so cute. Bright colors and shiny fabrics started catching my eye in shop windows; I bought things in turquoise and green I'd never have considered before. I took chances on hot pink and orange - together - and it made me smile. That was the secret.
She wore rings on every finger, and bangles and necklaces and spectacular earrings, and crazy hats and headbands, and she had more pairs of fingerless gloves than anyone I knew, and a closet full of fabulous (and comfortable) shoes in shades of orange and green, and about six pairs of running shoes in rainbow hues, and at least a dozen windbreakers and fleeces, and animal print Ugg boots, and a drawer full of wacky socks, and workout wear in every bright print and solid. Every morning, she'd stride out the door like a layered and lipsticked peacock and was magnificent.
The year the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, the three of us gathered in her pink and turquoise living room with the plaid chair and cat pillows and rhinestone-studded artwork - the absolute opposite of our beige and wood - to watch the game on her gigantic TV. What she didn't know about the sport she made up for in enthusiasm...and decorations. That night we all celebrated in Ballard with the delirious yet well-behaved crowds, and a few days later she and I hitchhiked downtown to watch the parade in 19-degree weather. We walked all the way home.
Enough stories to fill a month of 100words. Like the time the three of us walked from home to the ferry to have brunch on Bainbridge on the anniversary of Bobbe's death. She said whenever they would go to Bainbridge, she would buy a blouse in the shop next door. So I said, Then let's go! And thus began the shopping trip of my life - something out of a movie, where the characters go in and out of stores, accumulating tissue-topped bags. We ran with ours to catch the ferry back and hoofed it home, too, happy and heroic.
She will never hear that last, lusty Happy Birthday I sang on her voicemail, figuring she was out being feted by friends, not in a million years suspecting that she lay dead on her bed in a pool of vomit. It's an image I am trying hard not to conjure, yet it continues to surface cruelly. I nursed her once during a bad stomach flu she caught in Hawaii, almost exactly 2 years ago. I put her to bed and made her sip Gatorade, and tiptoed in frequently to check on her. Would that have made a difference this time?
Her sudden, supremely unexpected death has left a shocked and bewildered multitude in uncomprehending grief. Word has spread quickly throughout our "village" and well beyond. Some wander around as though looking for something but unable to remember what it is. Others feel like they've taken bad acid and hope it will be over soon. We move slowly, distractedly, swimming in slow motion through mud, silently screaming to ourselves and each other, Not possible! Not fair! Not Frances! Not bright, sunny, radiant, sparkling, warmth-and-love-emitting Frances!
How fitting that this is the day of the solar eclipse.
I loved knowing she was up from the kitchen cupboards banging in the morning, and knowing she was home from the click of the lock and "treee-eats" sung out to the cats as she walked in the door. I loved sharing coffee and cheerful companionship in our bathrobes. I loved how she'd knock if she was having a bad day, then let me sit her down and feed her comfort food. I loved her realistic-but-still-joyful outlook and bright, happy energy (like mine). I loved our hallway chats, our afternoon walks, our heart-to-hearts. I loved.
Yellow is one of the first colors that comes to mind when I think of her. She wore it like sunshine, carried it like a bouquet of daffodils in March, spoke it like creamy butter. Gold, too - on fingers, wrists and earlobes, and in her word. Fuchsia and turquoise were the colors of her walls and her paintings and her scarves; her socks, her capris, her soft suede shoes. She ate the rainbow, too: pineapple and strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and melon, with cinnamon-swirled yogurt and nuts on a bed of bright greens atop a red-and-white polkadot plate.
I didn't know her in the days before digital photography, so can only imagine the rolls of film she went through to fill the countless albums that overflowed bowed shelves. She began culling as she emerged from mourning. Mementos of Bobbe no longer filled the house, occupying instead a few corners, and the boundless space in her heart. She needed only a few choice pictures now, the rest hauled down to the dumpster, calmly and purposefully, one shopping bag at a time, after the appropriate tears had been shed privately. She felt healed and cleansed afterward, ready to move forward.
These were a few of her favorite things: her Keurig coffeemaker and FrothPro milk foamer; pastries from Le RÍve on Queen Anne; the salmon sandwich with sweet potato fries and a strawberry lemonade at Ray's; reading a good biography on her iPad at Starbucks in the village; getting her daily 10,000 steps walking around Magnolia; taking pictures of flowers with her iPhone on those walks; finding cool apps for playing with the thousands of photos she took; fresh kale and cilantro from my garden; Justin's peanut butter on raisin bread; Hšagen Dazs vanilla Swiss almond ice cream.
He had all these questions about details and wanted to know exactly how it would work. I felt a little talked down to and didn't formulate my response until the next day: Does he think that only fully formed, carefully researched programs with well-analyzed flowcharts and double-checked budgets should be allowed on a political platform? What about the grand ideas? Isn't it also valid to fire people up with inspired and inspiring ideas? Then, if they vote for you, that's a mandate for you to take the idea and start making it real. The details can come later.
It blew the neighbor's gas grill over and the hummingbird feeders sideways, and two trees toppled to the north and south of us, miraculously missing buildings, windows and vehicles. All the money that went into a late-model BMW SUV couldn't save the man sitting in the driver's seat in the parking lot of a popular park when a huge tree came crashing down on him. He was probably checking his mail or sending a text message when it happened, leaving his 3-year-old daughter in the car seat in back virtually unscathed, to grow up without her daddy.
I want to text her my picture of a perfect red tulip spotted in that garden by the church on McGraw, tell her the cherry trees on 29th have opened their pink popcorn canopy, share the news that Starbucks in the village will soon start selling beer and wine after 2 pm (they've even installed a new bar in the window!), report breathlessly on all the Sunday storm damage, complete with photos of downed trees and double rainbows, compare notes on Season 4 of House of Cards, hear what campaign madness is like in Florida. But today was her memorial.
Grief is a heavy grey blanket I wear through the day. The weight of it makes me sleepy and the moment I am no longer doing something that needs doing, I feel my eyes closing. It's not scratchy and it doesn't smell --not like those old wool blankets we took to camp--but neither is it cozy or comforting. It's just heavy and weighs me down. I know enough not to fight it and I know the day will come when it will go back in the closet, but for now, I just want to lie here on the sofa.
The stories are in my cells. It was "a blotteh" of a day; Dad got talked into a facial by his barber and was really late getting home. In his rush to dress, he stuck his foot right through his sock, so Zaide give him his and went to his son's wedding in tails and no socks. For their honeymoon, they went by train to Ste. Agathe (the grandkids LOVE that story) and Zaide went up to the conductor and told him to "drive careful, his kids were on the train." In the photos, they're magnificently young. March 17, 1942.
I'll be caucusing next Saturday (!) and I think I have finally figured out who I'll vote for, and why. After see-sawing back and forth between Bernie and Hillary (how I HATE those cutesy appellations, and yet I use them), I am going to vote for Bernie. I will certainly vote for Clinton, if(when) she is nominated, but at this stage, I must vote for the old Jewish humanist socialist who rails against the billionaires and really does want the little guy to get a better deal, simply because every cell in my body is programmed to do so.
Learning to listen to what I need, I eschew the remember-Frances gathering in favor of a whole day in the garden, turning soil, planting seeds and starts, and participating quietly in the garden-wide, start-of-the-season clean-up. Some need direction, most don't, going about their business easily, as I do, one step at a time, pulling everything out or off, sorting, cleaning, bagging, hauling... until all the garbage is gone, all the shelves are organized, tools hanging neatly, stuff gone for washing, and a fragrant fire of rotten wood and pruned branches burns in the bin.
And just like that, good news grabs my grey blanket and flings it off my shoulders (but doesn't put it on the shelf just yet). Another baby! They couldn't make the decision themselves, so they looked the other way and let Nature decide. And now they will be the "two family" that he wanted so badly for himself. I love how his deep happiness overrides his anxiety (which he hides so well) and that much of his ease comes from his trust in and admiration for his beloved, and while I'm still not putting money on it, I'm so hopeful.
He ignored her/my pleas to wear the new slippers and insisted he was fine in his favourite old leather ones, slippers such an apt name for the footwear that threatened to send him sliding and bumping (if he was lucky) down the stairs, their worn orange carpeting just itching for a fight. Eight, six and seven: I knew the number of stairs in each flight by heart, having tip-toed up them in the dark on countless teenage nights. Now I was left to imagine him catapulting head-first downward, creak-free zones be damned. But he never did.
I would miss spring the most, I think. Not the grey, of course, but the patient, incremental unfolding--the daily unfurling of pale green fingers, the slow emergence of tender shoots, reaching upward through drenched soil and dead leaves. In Montreal, it happens almost overnight, but here it's like time-lapse photography viewed in real time. I first experienced that in Aix-en-Provence, another March 44 years ago, when I would take a daily walk around the town and notice how things changed from day to day. In this similarly Mediterranean climate, Nature has the same luxury of time.
More grey skies, a chill wind that gets under your skin, bombs in airports and subways, predictable calls for more walls and barriers and neighborhood monitoring. An entire religion thrown under the bus. Will they be made to sew green crescents on their clothes? Democracy is open, vulnerable and fragile, and I fear it will get much worse before it ever starts to get better. Fact, nuance and educated reflection will be trampled in the mad rush to "protect." The 1% can relax: so long as these attacks continue, the only issue people will care about will be national security.
A spring walk in Seattle yields the usual jaw-dropping floral abundance: daffodils in yellow, cream and white; tulips in single and multiple shades of red, pink, purple, yellow and orange; blossoming cherry and apple trees; magnolias with blooms larger than my hand, deep vagina-pink fading to white; crimson pyrocanthus berries; pale-pink and cherry-red camellias; drifts of purple mascari; rainbows of primrose; early lavender and fuchsia azaleas; a flowering white shrub that smells heavenly, like sarcococca (but isn't it too late for that?). And a surprise ending: a bevy of fat hens pecking in the late sun.
Growing food is a process of minute miracles, intensive labor and patience. The next time you eat non-industrial produce, take a moment to reflect on how that magnificent fruit-pod-leaf-root came into being. Someone planted those tiny (or not) seeds in carefully prepared and nurtured soil, kept them moist till they germinated, weeded and watered regularly, kept the pests and diseases away without poisoning you, and finally, harvested the food at some ungodly hour. That person's back aches, there's dirt under his/her nails that will never come out, and he/she is woefully under-slept. But it was so worth it.
Notwithstanding the fact that not all caucuses are created equal, and the question of how democratic the process really is (unless there's a well-publicized absentee ballot system, like we have in Washington), I feel like I have just participated in one of the most grass-roots aspects of this democracy. Throngs of people came to make their voices heard. It was thrilling. And civilized. And full of rules, which we dutifully followed. As in any organized sport, we chose delegates, who will choose other delegates on April 17, who, on May 1, will choose final delegates for the convention.
Betrayed by the body again, just when it was doing so well. Never to be taken for granted now, no sign can be ignored. That minor ache noted upon rising must be taken seriously, immediately, lest it escalate to discomfort i.e. pain and immobility later in the day. RIMI is the new modality: rest, ice, marijuana, ibuprofen - and don't stay in one position for too long. And it was caused by what, excessive walking??? These are the indignities of aging. Eternally young and heedless in our hearts, we are brought up short by the shelf life of our shell.
And so, just like that, they are not pregnant and there likely never was a baby. But after a 5-hour drive spent toying with the sound of different names, and a week of freaking out hugely mitigated by the thrill of a second child, they now know exactly how much they want another. And so, never mind chance and glancing sideways not wanting to take full responsibility for the decision. Now they're going for it full on, so to speak, and I am a grinning granny, hoping that hope and desire and intention doesn't mess things up for them.
First item on agenda today: make invoices. Finally sit down at computer after noon, check mail, do daily Italian lessons, browse Buy Nothing Magnolia posts, make phone calls. Make invoices, realize there is other bookkeeping to be done. But need a deposit receipt from my purse in the hall. Go get receipt, stop in kitchen to unwrap defrosting meat, see sun has moved, step out on balcony to check tomato starts. Return to desk, remember the receipt. Not in purse; find it on the board by the steak. On way back to desk, remember to grab invoices from the printer.
Who was it who figured out that skinny little needles at key points along the "meridians" could relieve pain? Clearly, pressure points were known in ancient times, but it took metallurgy to bring the critical next step. I shudder to imagine the early needles...and the guinea pigs who were stuck with them. I'm in awe of healers who understand the body (and mind) so deeply and bring the full synergy of their knowledge, east and west, to bear. She diagnosed a gluteus minimum strain and confidently needled and massaged me, leaving me bruised that night but healed the next.
March began with a sharp pain and leaves with a sighing ache. I'm taking flower pictures for her now, and sharing them with her friends, like she used to. I'm purging closets in a fabulous fit of spring cleaning, remembering her happily lugging bags down to the thrift shop. I'm browsing the racks in her favorite store in the village, wondering what new spring items would catch her eye. There's a lot of grey and blue and muted tones this season. She would have to un-mute the palette with scarves and socks and jewelllery. I wish she were here.
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