Monday, June 13, 2022

Oh, Happy Day


the performance of this song rocked my little world.  i've always loved this song, or at least the feeling of it.  i don't think i ever actually knew the words.  but to watch this group sing it and the group of people listening to it, absolutely living it, well, i dare you to stay still...

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The Mirror From Church Street

 We've landed on the other side.  We are on the other side of the country; we are on the other side of a life lived in California; I, personally, feel I'm on the other side of even understanding what's next.  We've flipped it all.  I've tried to take it step by step and not get emotional or too sad or too happy or too anything because every feeling is temporary and I'm aiming solely for temperate.  So far, it seems to be working.  I'm treating the whole move like I'm getting the best of all worlds.  What could be better?  Again, so far so good.

One month ago, on the California end, after these four guys loaded all our boxes, furniture and 50 years of memories into a van and drove away, we never heard from anyone again.  We had pretty much decided our stuff was gone.  And, while we weren't horribly upset (again, taking things as they come...), we did feel we were owed an explanation.  One never came.  But, our stuff finally did, a little over two weeks after we arrived.  The day these two young boys and a man named Misha, released our boxes into this house, RK and I sat down on the couch and readily passed out.  You might think that strange, as we hadn't done any obvious physical work that day, but the tension we'd been holding onto for weeks now was palpable.  So, when the relief of the whole thing being 'over' kicked in, we could do nothing but fall asleep.

Slowly, we're unpacking boxes.  It's not slow because of thought or comfort or we're taking it all in, but it's going slowly because we didn't actually bring any real furniture with us.  When we unpack a box, we don't have a shelf or a cupboard or desk to put things on.  Maybe we didn't think that through.  I'm also used to the life of second hand furniture, where I used to visit the thrift store daily, or walk home and see great furniture on the street corner.  Now, as new homeowners, we're aiming for a little more grown-up vibe.  I don't know that it'll happen, but it's what we're after.  In the meantime, I'm unpacking what we did actually bring.  

I have repeatedly said during this move, 'if anything breaks, it's OK, it's just stuff!'  I joke that I have so much stuff, the breakage would actually be doing me a favor.  So, after opening box after box, everything in tact, this broken mirror was a surprise.  Not a shock, but a kind of deep breath memory surprise.  This mirror collection of mine is large:  Some came from flea markets, some from family, some I don't even remember where they come from anymore, but some come with a story tied to a time, a time that extends much further than me.


For me, this mirror belonged to our neighbor in San Francisco, who we never got to know but to wave and say 'hello' when we saw her.  Then, recognize as she struggled with what we assumed was a pretty serious illness, coming home one day with a shaved head and a winding scar on her skull from front to back.  She quickly went from friendly to fragile.  We never passed each other on the sidewalk again, but we could see she had help.  We would see her from across the street, out our third floor window, as someone carefully guided her from the car to her front door.  And then, suddenly, she was gone.  

One day, walking past her home, there was another woman in the garage standing amongst stacks of boxes and I stopped to talk with her.  She told me my neighbor had been her mother and she had passed away.  They grew up in that house on Church Street.  There were three girls in her family, she told me, and a family that lived two doors down had three boys of similar age.  The running family routine was to try and set them all up, for years.  It was sweet to hear they were all still friends.  Her parents were Russian Jews, very involved in the community, professional matchmakers, they held movie nights for young people to meet.  There was actually a closet inside the house, stacked with all the old film reels, she was planning on donating to the community.  She told me she was getting her parents house ready to have an estate sale.  We talked for quite awhile about how that feels, what you keep, what you let go of, how it feels to hold their things when they're not longer here.  I told her I would come to the sale because I'd like to support her, and have something to remember her mom by and then she'd know something of her family stayed on Church Street.  She invited me to come in with her at that moment:  She thought the sale might get crazy and crowded and wouldn't it be nice to walk through it together now?  I agreed and followed beside her as she told me more family stories.  Eventually, we turned a corner and entered a small dressing room and I saw this mirror hanging on the wall.  Maybe I mentioned I collect mirrors, I don't remember, but, for her, this mirror held a thousand memories of childhood.  She told me about being a little girl, watching her mom get dressed for those movie nights and seeing both their reflections in that mirror stuck with her.  She took it off the wall, handed it over to me and said 'thank you'.  

Though it was 15 years ago now, I clearly remember coming home with the mirror, telling RK who it belonged to, confirming all of our conjecture about our neighbor and explaining the fascinating history of this family, who we never really knew, but now carried with us in this reflection.

Today, there is a heartbreaking war raging in Ukraine, each day is infused with an extremely heavy feeling of helplessness; with these unknown, hurting people on my mind, opening this box and finding this particular piece shattered made me forget my cavalier attitude towards breakage and, instead, found me quietly crying into my coffee over the things we lose every day.

 


Sunday, February 13, 2022

Lives, Acknowledged

We're moving.  We're packing up our little life here in Los Angeles and moving to create a little, maybe a little bigger, life in New Hampshire.  When you pack up, you also unpack a lot of little things:  do i keep this? does this thing go in a box with that thing?  It's a lot to sort through.  So, we decided we wouldn't spend much time sorting thru any of it until we unpack on the other end.  Some things though, are hard to miss.  When you open a drawer that's been closed for a few years, you find these things and maybe you start to rifle through them just a little bit.  And maybe you get completely caught up in these things and find hours have passed as you read, sort, read some more, maybe even have a good cry over what you've 'found' again.

There are four large drawers deep in the walk in closet of our current apartment.  When we realized we couldn't have everything out on shelves or on desks or bookcases, things went into these drawers.  Now that we're moving, the drawers have to be emptied and, inevitably, I start looking through these envelopes and little boxes and catch myself going in deep.  On top of one of these envelopes, a large black envelope to be exact, is an article that is titled "A life, acknowledged" written by Richard Cohen, formerly of The Washington Post.  This article includes the story of my friend, Suzanne Hart, who was killed ten years ago in NYC.  It is a sparing, brutally honest, short piece about the people that were in the obituaries that week of December, 2011.  I can't link it here, I can't even find it online actually.  But, moments ago, when I was just trying to send him an email, I wasn't even trying to find the article online.  I had it in my hand.  I read it.  And then I read it again.  And I cried.  When I stopped crying, I decided to write him a note to tell him that I'd saved this piece and, while it wasn't particularly warm or emotional, it actually made me feel both of those things.  

Here is the email I wrote:

Dear Mr. Cohen,
I probably wrote to you back in 2011 when you first wrote this piece (12/20/11) but I don't remember if I did and, as we are packing up our whole house and moving back east again, I came across the envelope where I keep all the articles about my friend, Suzanne Hart, read it again and had a good ole sob.
I just wanted to thank you, if I hadn't previously.  It's strange to read about your best friend, a limb practically, in such detached views.  Yet, your piece made me feel that she had been seen, beyond the sensationalism.  And there was plenty of that.
Her brother, sister-in-law and I just acknowledged ten years of her being gone from our lives.  I sent them a Maya Angelou poem that I have on repeat in my head.  Though, for the three of us, at least, she's never really "gone".  We all talk to her a lot .  I met Suzanne in the sixth grade, stuck by each other like glue for the next ten years, lost touch for a bit, and then we both ended up in NYC and picked up right where we left off.  Sure, she was a 'a ray of sunshine', as the papers wrote, but truly she had a brilliantly dark sense of humor and a wicked tongue that kept us both in stitches.  They don't write that type of thing in an obit.
Another thing I came across as I was packing today was the cassette tapes I used to record answering machine messages and every friend that came thru my apartment.  On many of them, there is Suzanne, talking, laughing, smoking, living:  On one of them, she says to me, 'what are you going to do with all these recordings, molly, play them after i'm dead so you can still hear my voice?!' and she laughs and laughs. 
Yeah, Suz, I am.

But I never sent it.  In searching for Mr. Cohen's email address or where he is now (I honestly wanted to make sure he was still around before I sent this into the ether) I found more articles than I can count about what an absolute jack ass he was.  Article after article about his white-male privilege, openly racist thoughts and the sexual harassment that he displayed over and over gain.  UGH.  Each article worse than the last.  Mother Jones does a top 10 countdown of his worst moments.  I won't link it here, you can easily find it.  He's a real piece of work, retired now, but no doubt living out these traits in his real life, not just in the newspaper.  

The email, I deleted, the article I'll keep because ultimately, it's about Suzanne, not about this guy.  And when I talk to Suzanne, we can really rip this guy to shreds and no one has to read about any of it.