A New Moon

It is a Friday night and I am driving home. It is not early and it is not late. Although it is not a long drive I am enjoying the night, jazz on the radio. What I see is people in a terrific rush, passing me at high speeds – well above the speed limit.

Am I just enjoying the drive or am I getting old? We identify slow drivers as old or drunk. I am not driving particularly slowly, just not racing. It is a beautiful night, a night to be enjoyed. A night to roll the windows down and feel the wind on your face. I have always done this, since the time I started driving. Now it makes me feel young and beautiful.

All these people in a terrible rush. Are they getting home from work? Are they headed for a party, a date? What catastrophe will befall them if they don’t hurry? The older I get the less I understand that rush – unless I am late for an appointment of course. There are moments to be savored in this life and driving on a beautiful new moon night is one of them for me.

Stop and smell the roses, isn’t that what we have heard? So this is my version. Watching all those people missing the moment; perhaps they are headed for their own special moments and can’t wait to get there. Maybe what they don’t understand is that the moment, the experience, will still be there when they are – it will still be a moment. But the journey is it’s own special moment. Every moment is the now. If you are rushing toward another moment, you will always miss the one you are in.

So for me, it was a beautiful new moon Friday night, the windows down, the wind in my face, soft jazz playing and the now is always a wonderful thing.

Everything New Is Old Again

I walked the streets of my childhood last week. I didn’t intend it. I was downtown and had a destination about a mile and a half away. When you are in the City that seems a reasonable walk.

But the walk found me on those very familiar streets. Where I walked home from school, where I walked to my first job, where I walked to whatever mischief I could find. And everything is changed, busier, more modern, different. Almost all the storefronts have changed but a few of the old timers remain, relics of a more peaceful time in what used to be a neighborhood.

No matter the changes, my feet found the way so very familiar. As if nothing really had changed at all. I stood in front of the first home I remember, a small apartment on West 8th street, and I could see the businesses that were on that street. There was the drugstore on the corner where my impetuous brother gashed open his eyebrow on the square metal post out front. There was the very first Orange Julius. There was Fred Braun next door and an amazing bookstore right across the street.

These are all gone but that changed street, so much remade, was once again the place of my childhood.

Then I walked past the block where we lived next and the building is gone, it appears to be the home of new condos. But the Minetta Lane theatre and the Village Vanguard are still in evidence, still holding down the fort of the old neighborhood. The White Horse Tavern and the Stonewall are still there, and a few more.

And so as new as everything is, it is still where I grew up. Walking those streets felt as familiar as they ever were. Everything new is old again, at least in my eyes and in my feet.

The Dying of the Light

For two months I watched the light die. Increasing confusion and memory loss became the shutters slowly closing over the remarkable woman that was my mother.

We did not have the traditional mother-daughter intimacy that seems to be the referent for many woman. We are both complicated, perhaps more so as time has gone on.

As a child I wrote her, mostly from camp or from a summer stay in Florida with my grandmother, innocent lovey letters. Sometimes funny, sometimes angry but almost always lovey. Remarkably she saved them all.

As a young adult I wrote her long newsy and personal letters about my life at the time, husbands, school, work, money. Later in life I stopped writing at all for a time, holding my personal life close as she wanted to know and use any bit of information she could come by. I was astonished to learn of her correspondences with past husbands, boyfriends and their relations long after those relationships had ended. She never let anyone go willingly until she decided it was time.

During this last phase of our relationship I mostly emailed as she could not hear on the phone unless she really wanted to. And there was very little intimate shared as she chose to hear everything as she wished it or thought it to be. And she had no boundaries about sharing what she was told with anyone and everyone.

But remarkably, during her last protracted illness, I spent weeks with her. The longest alone time we had ever spent together in my adult life, and unusually, there were very few arguments. Perhaps she knew this was our last and most precious time together, maybe I have grown up enough to let her confabulations pass. How she remembered something, or told it – it no longer mattered if it was true.

During this time we just lived, in mostly a single room, in companionable silence. Sometimes working on some project she had in mind, other times just watching the news or having a meal. She always had a project in mind, something to do next even as she knew her time was drawing to a close.

Letting go of my mother involves letting go of this also extraordinary place where she lived for over fifty years. This house, and her presence in it, became the touchstone, the lodestar, the place to return to. It is a beautiful place and a strange house full of art and books and weird found objects.

My mother found beauty in rescued birds nests, found bleached animal bones, robins eggs and a million other things. Her artist’s eye was unique. Her flower gardens, blooming from season to season were a labor of decades of love, now starting to overgrow with weeds. She never used pesticides or poisons, she shared her blueberries with the bears and her apples with the deer and raccoons, the peaches with some creature or other. My mother, never really at peace, lived in complete harmony with the natural world around her.

As we begin to remove things from the space where she and I spent her last days it feels like erasure. And then I start on the photographs and she is brilliantly brought into focus as are the stages of the building of the house.

We were not close in any traditional way but I miss my mom and I will miss this place. We had our time, hers is done, my road goes forward.

Tupac and the Foo Fighters

As I go about my daily tasks, or turn on the television, I often wonder at the extent to which the music of my youth, my life, has become the soundtrack of commercials and elevators. I think I have written about this before but currently there is a whole crop of commercials that is using music that informed my younger days.

Of course every generation has a catalogue of music that is defining for them. Now we, the baby boomers, are the target audience for so many things because the world of big business assumes that we are the ones with the money. So it makes sense to use the music that speaks to us but it is still weird to hear it bastardized and monetized in a these ways.

I went to see the movie All Eyez on Me several years back; a biopic about Tupac Shakur. I went alone, as I often do. I found it interesting as a musician as I did not know all that much about the history of rap and the east-west competition with Big. I did not know that Tupac was an extraordinary musical engineer, doing his own mixes and orchestrating all of his stuff himself. That is big talent in my book.

Most startling about this experience was how many people were astounded that I went to see the movie at all. I am a sixty something white woman and apparently I didn’t fit the stereotype of who should go see, let alone enjoy, this movie. While the movie may not have been the best or most accurate, it was an interesting window into a subculture and a form of music that I was not all that familiar with.

My best friend is a lover of punky stuff. And while we feel the same way about music, and find some intersections, generally we do not listen to the same kind of music. She was talking music with her granddaughter who was amazed that my friend wanted to see the Foo Fighters in person. What? Grandma wants to see the Foo Fighters?

Her grandma is definitely not my grandma. Old is not as old as it used to be. But my grandma taught me the single most important of my life – never judge a book (person) by its cover. This is what she lived by, and how we all should live; rappers, punkers, folkies, classical audiophiles and jazz lovers all walking hand in hand. Sam Cooke got it right: what a wonderful world that would be.

Never Date a Tow Truck Driver

So when you are done laughing, here it is. I was in a zoom call with a group of women that I love and trust. And after we got done talking about the important and serious stuff, we got talking about this and that.

It is always a surprise to me what women end up talking about when we are just talking. I love that our conversations are unpredictable in their course. And the best is that it is not about gossip but about the random vagaries of life in the world.

In this particular group of women there is great diversity of age, ethnicity, stage of life, parenthood, etc. What we have in common is that we are all women growing in ourselves and in the world. We are all becoming, all the time.

One memorable such conversation was one that during an outdoor socially distanced lunch centered on toilet paper. Not on the current difficulty of acquisition, but on our individual tastes. How on earth do you end up in this conversation when the world is such a confusing mess? Maybe it felt safer. In this more current discussion we ranged from the appearance of grey pubic hair to the futility of dating later in life to wanting to beat children to death (mostly figuratively) to dog surgery and needy cats.

They say that every minute laughing adds a year to your life, or something like that – I forget the formula. If so, I just added a decade to mine. The best and most hilarious dating advice I have ever gotten (and it was today) was this: “never date a tow truck driver.” I can promise you that this was not an attribute I would have been seeking in a partner but I will take the advice to heart!