Monthly Archives: May 2012

Age Sneaks Up…

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My daughter, Jen, took this photo when she was about ten years old.

That means I would have been about thirty years old, and that this was about thirty years ago.

I still fully expect this woman to be looking back at me when I look in the mirror. I am always surprised when she’s not. “Oh…”, I think. “It’s you.” I forgot.

Again.

Someone said, and I believe it to be true, that we are always the same age inside.

Inside, I’m about thirty-five.

Outside is a different story.

I’m a small person with a decent smile and big eyes. Those traits gave me two advantages for much of my life: I looked young for my age, and I was cute.

I didn’t appreciate either, for a long time. As a teenager, there is no advantage – at least none apparent to that teenager – to looking like a twelve-year-old. As a young mother in her twenties and thirties, no advantage to looking like a teenager. The cute factor kept me from being taken seriously, I thought. I was a serious thinker back then.

I didn’t realize I actually used these traits to my advantage, until they no longer worked.

It takes you by surprise, age.

I prepared to enter a bar, I.D. card out and ready, only to be waved past without a glance. Oh. When did that change?

I smiled nicely up at a police officer when he stopped me for a tail light out, and got only a gruff, “Get ‘er fixed Ma’am” in response. Oh.

The time when, as a waitress, I approached a table, smiled, and in a we’re-all-in-this-together tone said, “Okay, have you decided what you’d like to order?” The looks they exchanged as they scrambled to make choices told me clearly we were not “all in this together” but rather that they saw me as a parent or a teacher who was demanding a decision. Oh.

The time when a car full of young boys approached me as I was walking down the road: my hair was long and didn’t show the gray in back; I am small and narrow-hipped; their tone and comments told me they clearly thought I was their age. As they drove up and stopped, I set my face in a mild smile, prepared to  kindly say, “I’m old enough to be your mother.” They took a quick look. Their grins turned to looks of horror and disgust as they judged, I’m guessing, that I was old enough to be their grandmother. The boy in the center leaned toward the driver and said, “RUN!” The driver gave a little nod and floored it. The car zoomed away. Oh-oh.

I get it. I’m surprised, too.

Last week, a young waiter offered me the senior menu. I feigned shock and insult, but thought I was good-humored in letting him know I was not old enough for the senior menu. Two days later, trying to impress me with his memory, he said, “So, you prefer to not be offered the senior menu, right?”

Yesterday, a man came into the store where I work. He’s my age or a bit older. He doesn’t live here on Beaver Island year around, but has a cabin here, and spends a good deal of time here in warm weather. I’ve known him for thirty years. When I was the morning waitress at the Shamrock, he was a regular customer. I’ve run into him in the shops and stores, or at the beach. I’ve waited on him when he’s come into the hardware. It’s nice to see familiar faces, and I gave him a friendly greeting, which he returned, with a smile.

“How’s your daughter?”, he then asked.

I have two daughters.

“Which one?”

“Oh…you know, the one who used to work at the Shamrock…Cindy!

Cindy. That would be me.

Ooooh.

I’ve just aged into the mother of my younger self.

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One More Crazy Day

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This is me, as interpreted by my granddaughter, Madeline.

This is exactly the look I have on my face today.

I can feel the tension in my jaw, the wild eyes, the grimace.

Deadlines loom, in the Spring of the year.

The need to do  too many things immediately has me stopped, unable to move in any direction, because I can’t go in all directions at once.

It’s my own fault, of course. I have taken on too much, set my sights too high, let in too many diversions and wasted too  much time.

Yesterday was a bonus day off, that I was going to use to catch up on everything. I had to go to town in the morning, to attend a meeting with my aunt. Afterward, I stopped at the little gallery  that carries my work in the summertime, to help repair a couple frames. I picked up mail, and went to the grocery store to stock my kitchen cupboards. Home, then, with the best of intentions. After greeting the dogs, I unloaded the car and put away groceries. I changed into gardening clothes. I made lunch: energy for the work ahead. I grabbed a beer, and headed out. It was too hot (TOO HOT! In May! On Beaver Island!)to work outside in the middle of the day.

That couldn’t be true.

I emptied the wheelbarrow. I pulled a few weeds.

No, really, too hot.

The dogs were languishing in holes they’d made in one shady corner of the flower bed.

Okay.

I put the drip hose in the flower bed, grabbed a book, loaded the dogs in the car and went to the lake.

The public access to Fox Lake is about two miles from my house. There is an array of rental boats on the shore, a little spot for a tent or two, a campfire circle and a picnic table.  Snapping turtles and loons can often be seen in the water.

While the dogs, wagging tails, checked out the new smells and tried out the water, I finished my book and my beer. There was a nice little breeze in the shade of the trees that line the shore. Birds were singing and dragonflies were flitting around. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

I’m paying for it today.

Today was my day to get the lawn mowed. It still is. But, added to that is my almost entire list of outdoor  work I was planning to do yesterday. The list was too long anyway, and it was unreasonable to believe I could finish it all, even if I’d devoted the entire day to it.

Still.

There is only so much time, in the Spring of the year, to get everything done, before I just have to give it up. I can’t plant seeds in July and have any hope of a harvest. I can’t transplant anything once their blossoms have started showing. I can’t mow my tall grass if it’s wet from a rain…and I’ve heard it might rain tonight. I’ve cut back on my garden plan, adjusted my goals for this year, and still I’m behind. I’m almost ready to cry “Uncle”! But not quite yet.

I’ll see how today pans out.

Generating Our Own Warmth

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I took some photos of skunk cabbage last week.

It’s not the most attractive of plants…and it truly does smell like skunk…but it’s one of the first things to show green up here in northern Michigan, well insulated by the big lake.

Now I hate to say too much, for I’ll surely get it wrong, but there is something about skunk cabbage that is mammal-like, in that it has the ability to generate its own warmth. It wakes up at just about the same time each Spring, whether it is warm or cold. I’ve seen it push up through the deep snow, actually melting the snow in a small circle around itself. I’m pretty sure it is unique in the plant world. It is always a welcome sight, letting us know that better weather is coming.

Last weekend, three nieces, three sisters and I pulled off a similar feat.

We were all, in our own way, dreading this first Mother’s Day without our mother.

My baby sister, Amy, spoke it out loud, and her lovely daughters arranged a trip. They generously invited all of us to join them, and seven of us made the trip. We traveled by train to Chicago, we boarded at 6:45 Friday morning and arrived in the city early in the afternoon. We took taxis when necessary, but were able to walk most places.

We dined, shopped and enjoyed the art and architecture. We played cards and drank martinis together. We talked about ex-husbands, current husbands and future husbands, and the generations fell away in laughter and sharing. We saw a wonderful play.

Mostly we relished the time together. We sent postcards to the brother and sisters who weren’t there, and reminisced about those who would never again be with us. There were moments of melancholia, but many more laughs than tears. We are building a foundation of memories to move forward on. Like the skunk cabbage, we’re creating our own little circle of warmth.

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In order of age – as we’ve posed for pictures our entire lives – four sisters: Brenda, Cindy, Robin and Amy.

Zoom In Closer!

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Several years ago, a visit from my daughter and her family ended on a day I had to work. As we had only one car, she got up and drove me to town to start my early shift, then came back to the house to wake up her husband and children. They dropped the car off to me, and we said our good-byes when they came to town to get on the ferry a couple hours later.

It’s not easy to rouse four children, exhausted from fresh air and late nights and cold water swims. It’s especially difficult  when the end of the vacation is the reason for having to get up early. We adults, too, had stayed up too late…last night to visit and all. Everyone was tired. Everyone was cranky. No one was being cooperative.

When I came home from work that day, a little melancholy at coming back to an empty house, I was confronted with the remnants of their chaotic morning.

Two mattresses were still on the living room floor, sheets and blankets strewn over them. The toy box had been emptied onto  the floor, and the contents were scattered throughout the house. Towels were hanging on every hook in the bathroom, and draped over the backs of two dining room chairs. A box of cereal had fallen on its side, and the contents covered the floor. A single dirty diaper, neatly wrapped in plastic, perched on the arm of the sofa. A brush and two hair ties shared space on the table with two coffee cups, four cereal bowls, a collection of silverware, a jug of milk, a jar of raspberry jam, three partial pieces of toast and a note from my daughter.

The note said: “Mom, Had a great time! Thanks for everything! Sorry to leave your house in such disarray. XOXOXOX.” A cheerio crunched under my foot.

“Disarray is a good word,” I thought.

She gets that from me. Understatement is the key!

I have evidently convinced several people that read these posts that I am performing super-human feats here at my little house on Beaver Island. I assure you,  that’s not the case.

I was going to admit it  last week, when Sara told me she thought I was one of those super-bloggers who could accomplish everything. I chickened out. I, instead, used the “Zoom” title to underscore my busy-ness, with garden and home and studio and home-made soup and bread…Then I read what Kathy wrote about  writing… her musings about what to write…and what, to her, constitutes something worthy of writing about. I knew, then, that I was squandering opportunities to say something real – and possibly meaningful – for deceptive, “look at my perfect little life” posts. That has to change. It is ridiculous to invite you in, then be afraid you’ll see my mess.

This week, the title is “Zoom In”.

That’s what I do. I give the close up view.

Photos of my flower beds show only the flowers in their weed-free beds. If I were to show a wider view, the weeds growing strong between the stones in my crooked walkway, the grass needing to be mowed and the rusty wheelbarrow would be visible.  Pan out a bit more and you’d see the collection of gas cans sitting near the back porch – because I never have a can with me when I need to get gas for the mower, so have to buy another. I think  I  have five now! You’d see the two pine trees that – for a reason unknown to me – were cut down three feet above the ground, leaving their bottom rows of branches spreading out over the back yard. The little shed that started life as a chicken coop, that has blackberry canes and wild roses growing through the floor, to the extent that I can no longer retrieve the hoses and tomato cages that were stored there. Hiding behind a big juniper bush, the satellite dish, giving me access to local television channels. Did I ever mention that I had TV? NO! I wanted you to think I was perfect!

This is just the outdoors!

I started this writing practice, having lost two siblings and my mother in a fourteen month period, as a way to make myself a little more aware of life as it happens. I wanted to pay attention to my surroundings, take notice of the every-day occurrences in my world, be more aware of my thoughts and feelings.

I choose to do my writing on this public forum, and I am thrilled to have people take interest in what I write.

I don’t choose to be dishonest. Sometimes, I just prefer to “zoom in”!