What’s Beautiful Here

What’s beautiful here is a house whose furniture belongs in a house of old, old things and old, old people. Broken or nearly-so. Fragile fabrics, like thin skin, bruising at every brush of a knuckle or seemingly kind word.

What’s beautiful here, where everything seems to be lightly stitched and held by twines and tufts of cat hair and dust.

What’s beautiful here. This is not a question. Because the answer is obvious, however much we like to hide it behind table cloth curtains and a ceiling of curses that fall on us with a laugh.

What’s beautiful here is … here.

Here where we gather. Here where we hurt full-throatedly and heal incrementally.

Here where we hang our art and tend to forget it until that day each quarter or so, when we take the dusting wand and swipe it lightly over the tops of frames and stop, if only briefly, to say “ah, I remember you.” Here where we relive the day we picked it out together and said “I do” all over again. I do love this. I do love you.

Here is what’s beautiful so we remember. As we look about, beyond the shoes and the books and the dishes that stack up on side tables and couter tops. Here is what’s beautiful.

What’s beautiful here is you. The you beyond your skin and hair and pants growing too saggy in your bottom even as mine grow tighter around my belly.

What’s beautiful here is your steadfastness, your loyalty, and your strength. Many men can benchpress the weight of me, but you, you carry me even when I am nothing but dead weight as you usher me forward, even while I draw you down and back.

What’s beautiful here, where the carpet and the couch are stained from a life of living with kids and kittens and a bevy of friends is not what is visibly here. Though some of that  is beautiful, too.

What’s beautiful here is the thing unspoken, the thing unseen, but often felt. It’s the thing that has broken us down and broken us open and the thing we rest our hearts on when we sleep.

What’s beautiful here is … us.

 

#UULent: Love

I’ve been ruminating on love today, a day where I am home alone with three cats who have been insisting, in turns, on being adored. But I went to the stored photos on my phone, thinking I could find a suitable selfie with my husband as my “love image.” And I did, but then I found this: taken as my daughters were about to drive back to their other lives after coming home for the Women’s March on Washington. And there they all are, scooped up in my husband’s grand wingspan (even the dopey orange cat).

This is the fun picture, but the picture I have of him from this time is standing outside the bus we just boarded for DC. “My whole life is getting on this bus,” he said as he gathered us all in for one last group hug, then stood outside, watching in.

Love. It’s like that wide wingspan: it is what holds us in, connected. Even those who aren’t pictured. Even the dopey cat.

 

Here in the Middle Book Event

Oh, I’m super excited. Next Saturday, I’ll be joining some of the other authors in the Chicago-land area for an author meet-and-greet/book signing for Here In The Middle. If you are in the area, join us (details, below). If you can’t make it, here’s a slide show to share some of the people in the book:

Details on the book signing are here.

Hope to see you there!

Tina

In the Middle

hereinthemiddleToday is the day! Release day for an anthology of essays written by some really thoughtful writers and compiled by excellent editors. Here in the Middle is a collection of stories about what has sometimes been called the “Sandwich generation.” But it isn’t really about a generation, it’s about a time in life when mothers and fathers find themselves involved deeply in the lives of their children and their parents.

This is a first for me, to have a piece I’ve written be included in an anthology, and I am thrilled that the first piece is this particular piece in this particular anthology. My story is from a time nearly nine years ago, when my children were still all at home here in Northwest Indiana, while my parents were battling my father’s cancer in Southern California.

momdadweddingIn looking through pictures at my mother’s house last summer when we moved her to a new home in a new state, I found this photo of my folks as they were “going away” on their wedding day. I love this photo for so many reasons, but mostly it shows these two as they set out in the world as a couple, a force to be reckoned with for more than 50 years.

But I also love the dress my mom is wearing. She kept it always and my sister and I would love to look at their wedding photos and then go steal a look at the dress. Alas, we outgrew that dress well before any time when it would have been appropriate for us to wear it, like, for real. So, instead, at their 50th wedding anniversary party, we hung that dress and her wedding gown from the curtain rods at my sisters house. I remember with a little embarrassed joy about how I fussed with that dress to pin the skirt out so everyone could see just how much fabric hung on that small but mighty frame.

My mom just left my home on Tuesday after spending Thanksgiving with me and my family. We are in a much different time now than the time I wrote about in Here in the Middle. And so are my husband and I in our journey with our now grown daughters.

I invite you to buy this book. My essay is only one of many that reflect the wide variety of voices from people who are here in the middle with us all. Wherever you are on your journey through life, I’m sure the honest writing about life’s full measure will be familiar to you in some form or another.

Find the book, here, on Amazon.

#hereinthemiddle

92. Pad See Ew and You

pad-see-ewThai food is a treat
almost as much as
seeing you, my love,
my baby, my friend.

How lovely to look
up from my noodles
that slap my face and
soil my shirt to see

you there, looking back
at me. Precious,
rare, sweet and spicy–
pad see ew and you.

91. Love Song

I’ll sing a song to youpumpkins
tonight, a song of
tender love; drowning

the sound the old cat
makes as he bathes and
bathes and bathes. The song

will be forever
sweet, so sweet your lips
ache and smack for chips

in need of a sting
like when I used to
sing to you before

you knew the words I
sang while begging you
to shut your eyes as

well as your yowling,
trembling, puckered lips.
The cat’s done bathing

and the house sits still
begging me for my
song. Too silent now

in this small home grown
large in the absence
of you, you, and you.

86. For my daughters in difficult times

You are the reason
the world moves forward.
You hold the traits
of many a grandmother
within your DNA, within
your heart

You have the kindness
and tenacity and
moral outrage of women
in numerous lines
stretching back through
harrowing circumstances,
and they survived,
resulting in you.

They live in you,
with their fierce love
of justice and humanity
even if those weren’t
the words they used
as they held babies on
their hips as they
tended to the needs
of families, of communities,
of this world.

They got up daily,
rising to what life handed them,
just as you do
just as you always will

Even when it is hard
even where there is no justice
even when those you trust
become untrustworthy

You are the reason
the world moves forward
just as your grandmothers were,
just as they are

Hold their purpose
in your pocket,
roll it around in your
fingers like a stone
made smooth by the
work of their hands,
the work of their hearts,
the work of their smarts.

You are the reason
the world moves forward.
And you always will be.

74. Bed Sheets Like Family

The Sheets are
rumpled up
hefted from the drier
where they sat
and cooled
and never
ever
were ironed

Looking like the
furrow
on my mother’s brow or the
laugh lines
at my father’s temple or the
weathered skin
on the back of my hand

Never smooth
never flat like the
aprons
my grandmother
wore
until she no longer
cooked
the family meals

63. Rocking

Shall I sing you
a lullaby
and pretend you
are small?

We’ll each hold
a phone to our
ear and I will
probably rock
to and fro

I’m trying to
remember
the words I sang
so long ago
when you fit
in my arms
and some nights
I wished you to
sleep with
frazzled nerves
and a sore neck

And then your hand
would sneak up
against my cheek
or into my hair

So many things
I regret having
done or not done

But rocking you
to sleep night
after grumpy night?

Never.

I wouldn’t
wish you small again
or even here
among the cats
when you have
the chance to
cast your ship
to sea
and rock among
life’s waves

But it doesn’t mean
I don’t long for
tender times
so long ago
and also just
last month

38. Two Magical Things

I held the saw in
my hand
and ran it
mostly straight
and almost
without hesitation
and the power of it
both scared and intrigued me.

Then, tonight, as I tried
to sleep,
the feel of that saw
still vibrating my blood,
I marveled at how
my arms and eyes
held steady
toward a good
outcome.
and my hands
felt guided and held,
even through the
pain of swollen joints

And I saw you
doing the same–
sawing and nailing
and making
something from
a pile of wood

I closed my eyes and
saw myself in you
in ways I never recognized
before

I looked like Mom,
I acted like Mom,
I went everywhere
with Mom

But there I was,
dancing around
a garage, with tools–
power and not–
noodling on a problem,
solving it and
working til the
next conundrum
sends me two-stepping
between the table
and the tools.

Today I learned
two magical things:
1. how to use a
circular saw; and
2. how to summon
you when needed