Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I hate a maudlin post

So I went ahead and wrote one.

Going back to Houston for the first time since my mother's death was a profoundly sad affair, and it's been awhile since I felt like coming out. I am wary of writing too often of the deeply personal online; the self-absorption of grief, in particular, does not translate well in such a public forum. Too often indulged it makes for a dreary blog, however earnest; overlong and unimpeded by humor or perspective, it's a bit of a slog.

Fair warning.

I went back to Texas to help begin the process of sorting out the apartment my mother kept in my brother's home, and arranging for the dispersal of her things. Most problematically, I was trying to figure out the best way to transport her beloved Heywood Wakefield bedroom furniture to California. Mom had purchased this lovely set, with it's clean, modern lines and beautiful blonde wood as a newlywed and cherished it all of her life. She taught me to do the same, and now it is to be mine.

I thought I had adjusted to our loss, more or less, and was coping in a quite-nearly adult fashion. But being there, sleeping in her apartment, sifting through the accumulated souvenirs of a long life, well-lived was to become once again immersed in the profound grief I experienced at her death. This, I suppose, is the cruelty of absence in the presence of the tangible ~ she was everywhere, yet nowhere.

My mother kept every little note, every letter, every missive ever sent to her. Every card my brother crayoned, every doodle drawn on scrap paper was there. In a shoebox labeled "memory box" was an entire series of pictures I'd done on flip cards; apparently, they were meant to viewed as a kind of 'moving picture' and seemed to be telling the tale of two friends who dressed like twins and went on adventures. There was much crying and laughter in the series, a few adults and many changes of clothes. The twins dressed well. I actually remember drawing these, although not the enigmatic plot line. On the box my mother had written, "Gigi ~ Age 5!" with evident pride.

Most touching and illuminating were the myriad notes and letters that passed between my parents. There are 78 rpm (?) recordings sent from 'Your man in Service.' He drew her pictures; she wrote him cheery thanks. From decades later is a banner he must have hung for her reading, in the elegant handwriting of another age, "Happy Anniversary ~ 1939 -1986 ~ love forever, Freddie." Somehow, I cannot bear to think about how much in love they were, for how long, and how little I understood of that. For a while there, they always seemed to be fighting. For a while, it always seemed to be about me.

The story of their many failed attempts at adoption are there in the form of legal documents: local babies, "Negro-Korean" orphans; children from Germany, children from France. Children from anywhere. So much longing, so much promise, so much love. In the end, they got us. The burden of knowing how often and how deeply I disappointed them is, at this time, nearly unbearable. It breaks my heart all over again.

There is still much to do; Mom was clearly nothing if not a saver and there are still boxes and boxes in my brother's attic and closets to go through. So I'll be back.

And because I adore my family and love to see them, in time I would like to be able to return to their home without bringing with me this sorrow; without packing this blanket regret that I fear I am wearing like a hair shirt. I have always taken full responsibility for my life as lived, and gladly so. Now I must accept the lessons of the past, let go
of old guilt and concentrate on the joy that is, after all, my true inheritance. Que sera, sera.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

orange lanterns

"Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow."
~ Wassily Kandinsky

I painted these Japanese lanterns from an ad ripped out of a magazine some time ago. I was trying to work on getting some intensity from my watercolors without letting them get thick and muddled, as is my wont. And because I just thought that they were pretty. The days are so wretchedly hot now ~ I can't bring myself to work outside, and oils are too messy for the available space indoors. So maybe underwatercolor is a good place for me to be. It sounds so cool and refreshing.

But not yet. Tomorrow I leave for Houston, where I'll be enjoying the same heat I'm sweltering in here, only Texas style, with higher hair and humidity. Which means that I'll be sweating and swearing like a cowgirl for the next ten days or so. If I survive, see you when I get back. If not, stay cool. In fact, stay cool anyway. I need to hit the gym and go pack my good jeans. Maybe I'll catch you later. Underwater...