Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In Service

I have always thought my grandmother was regal, a Queen Mother.

In Wisconsin, I sat with my grandmother expending every ounce of positivity and optimism within me as neighbors drifted in with casseroles and home made chicken soups, pies and strudels.

She looked at me and said "I am so melancholy. But it is a comfort to have something delicious and good for you that someone made with their own hands. Food is love."

So after 72 years with my grandfather she must move forward alone. And food is love.

I left her condo, went to buy groceries with my father's credit card and fought the urge to pull over the car and go to sleep. My eyelids were weighted down like iron. It was a bright January day, I had slept the night before and woken at a reasonable hour. It is just exhausting not to cry.

I am an adult member of this family now and so I do not cry, till later in the afternoons when my mother comes home from work and finds me curled up in her bed. Then we cry, just a little. "He was my dad longer than my own father." She says, then goes about all the minor details that no one else even thinks of for days on end with a house full of mourners.

I put together the bean dip that she had promised for school. And then I made pans of vegetable lasagna, the kitchen is a sea of sqaush, zuchini, mushrooms and kale, with white wave tips of ricotta and mozzarella. In a frenzy of love, and helplessness, I flew around the kitchen slicing and roasting and tossing olive oil, nearly burning the garlic, whisking the butter and flour, not scorching the cream. Barely keeping my head above the water. One pan with sausage, one without for my vegetarian brother who has not come home yet.

They will cook the lasagnas the next day, the night before the service. But I am gone, to stay the night with my grandmother. Away from a full house to a quiet and newly empty condo. I brought her a tiny lasagna but she is not well enough to eat it.

I knelt at her feet and manicured her hands while softly pressing for my favorite stories. I worked lotion into her gnarled hands and she told me about picking out her engagement ring.

"I thought for sure I was blinding everyone on that streetcar with my little ring."

In the morning my beloved cousin and I made up her face the way she made up ours when we were little girls, before an outing or church. My mother never let me wear make up, but my grandmother would dab bright pink lipstick, hand me a tissue to blot my mouth....a little perfume behind the ears.

She arrived at the church, flanked by grown granddaughters, her ladies in waiting and a snow white poodle.

At her service.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A settling in.

I suppose it is time to move again. My feet, move my feet. And Fingers.

Move because I am staying. In New York, in Brooklyn, in a cozy floor-thru with a manboy who makes me laugh, mostly and lets me be often enough and doesn't carry me, just stands stubbornly beside me.

This is just a life and so here we are in Brooklyn--white very white--on our tree-lined Bed-Stuy street but respectfully pleasant. I am insistent in my "good mornings" and "have a nice days" while my boyfriend is awkwardly kind and made untouchable by his broad shoulders and thigh-sized arms. The gum popping girls with earrings as big as my purse roll their eyes when we bring our own bags to the grocery store. We are looked up and down more than we are greeted. We are outsiders in this old neighborhood full of families, the generations who grew up together are wary of us, unsure whether we are simply transients or the harbingers of an unwelcome change.

When we move it is a Christmas of boxes for me and a separate faraway Christmas in Wisconsin for him, a frozen cold January with 12 hours shifts, 7 days a week for him and a lonely, cold roommateless existence for me, with a four trains at 1 am to get home and me unsure of walking this new, dark neighborhood with cops who ask if I am lost.

But in March we walk through the park to the coffee shop and then back, it is sunlight and ice melting. Onto our street we are stopped dead in our tracks by the 5 twenty something white hipster boys who pass us. We look at each other, surprised.

Maybe they've been hibernating. Matt is not pleased by this, he does not want to be one of the gentrifiers, the hipsters, the unwelcome.

My boyfriend is handy, he puts up bookshelves first, which allow me to feel like I live here with him now, our books mixed together across the long shelves on either side of the plastered over fireplace.

Later in the fall, he builds an island with shelves where I can place all my kitchen paraphernalia. And just before his parents come for the first visit, he builds matching nightstands with white bamboo and a cork inlay. He puts a dusty blue clay on the walls of the middle room and we hang up black and white pictures there, the photo booth strips of us laughing, kissing, smiling, stoic.

We find a futon on craigslist, we put it in the second room where I never go to write. Our bachelor friends come all the way to Bed-Stuy and then just stay the night. We take turns buying groceries and he builds a box that sits on the fire escape, overflowing with parsley and peppers. A squirrel eats all our cilantro. And suddenly it is winter again, a new year begun and we are staying. I am learning to move within the comfortable boundaries of a life with him, a life in Brooklyn, and I am happy.