Thanksgiving Daughter 2016

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I loved it when my grandmother gave me a chocolate turkey in a cute box that said, “Gobble!” My mother immediately said that if it were good chocolate it would be solid. It wasn’t. It was hollow. Seemed good to me. Made me feel special. Nany always did make me feel special. No one else did so it was good that she did. She saved my psyche or what was left of it.

 

Nany had this plastic tablecloth with a lace pattern on it. She and my grandfather took the card table out of the huge closet (that held the Murphy bed,) placed a big, heavy round wooden top on the card table for Thanksgiving dinner. Then came the plastic lace tablecloth, the hyacinth blue plates, the silver plate flatware and the striped glasses filled with V-8 juice. The turkey was perfectly cooked and the mashed potatoes and stuffing were sublime. I don’t remember much else on the menu except of course for the Pogacha, which were Hungarian biscuits fried in bacon fat and so delicious that they remain with me still.

 

My father drank shots of whiskey followed by Rhiengold beer. That was his way of marking a holiday, I believe. I’m not sure my mother drank any alcohol but I always wished she would, thinking it might make her kinder. We over ate, talked a lot and when we were done I would lay down on the overstuffed plumberry satin couch with the ornately carved arms and fall asleep. It was all ritual, all delicious, and all expected. There were no surprises except for whatever erratic behavior my mother would come up with each day and especially on holidays. If only she’d known how blessed she was, but she never did.

 

I stopped in Whole Foods yesterday, forgetting that one does not “stop into Whole Foods” during Thanksgiving week but, I was waiting on a prescription and had time to pass. I was also looking for delicata squash for a recipe I wanted to make. I’d been terribly sick for weeks with acute bronchitis complicated by asthma and likely my one hundredth bout of pneumonia. I’ve been battling this yearly illness since I was five years old and sometimes wonder if I could be on a waiting list for some shiny new lungs instead of the ragged, scarred up ones I own. These lungs have been through so much and are so persnickety.

 

But anyway, from coughing non-stop and gasping for air most of the last two weeks, I’d little reserves left or tolerance for much. In the produce section there were samples of Honey crisp apples. I don’t even like apples, but man those honey crisps are something else even when they’re not organic! I was choosing two perfect apples for myself when I noticed that I was standing next to a 2017 calendar display. There was this sweet little girl, maybe eight years old going through one page by page. It was pink and it was “Daughter, You Are Such a Gift to My Life” by Susan Polis Schultz. My first snarky thought was. “Who even knew Susan Polis Schultz was still alive and kicking?” My next thought got stuck in my throat, pulled out my tears and made my heart crash. “Oh dearest little girl,” I thought, “Are you looking at these poems thinking they are about you? If you are, then yes, yes a thousand times yes, they are! Or, are you thinking that your mom should get this for you or that she should have it for herself?” I stood there staring and wondering really, but this girl was just eating up every sweet, sappy word. And oh how I wished someone had ever bought this for me. And of course there I was crunching on the honey crisp apple, still coughing and crying all at once. What a sight. The classic southern “hot mess.”

 

That damned hole never really closes back up does it? I am grateful this Thanksgiving of course. I am always grateful for all that I have and all that I am, but that doesn’t make it any less painful to think of all I missed

Still in a Fog, Hoping for Help in Church

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I thought maybe going to church might help. I started my day with a memorial service for a seven month old who died on the eve of Halloween a few months after the shocking diagnosis of a rare and aggressive form of cancer. The “celebration of his seven months of life” was held in an out of the way and unusual tea house with no windows and no doors and acres of raised beds growing tea leaves. There was a stage where baby’s photo and toys were displayed. The parents held each other gently swaying a bit. Friends and caretakers shared words of the love they witnessed. A singer softy singing “Thy Will be Done.” I struggled a bit with the advice of one speaker to not feel depressed or sad at this time because of how much fun this baby was having with Jesus. I just balked some at that because as the mom of a child who died, no one could ever convince me that there was anywhere in the universe better than my arms or my breast for my baby. But I tried hard not to judge, as this was their gathering and their privilege to hang onto anything remotely helpful. The service ended with a recording of baby’s laughter and that got to me with the clear blue sky, the children running in the sand box, swinging on the swings, and being so full of life, while one had died. Because yes, the world does go on with children still swinging, and running and laughing.

After that, I went downtown where I was supposed to help as a volunteer with a 1000 foot long table of suppers to help raise money for hurricane victims in the eastern part of our state. By then, my bronchitis was kicking in and I was not feeling well, so volunteering was off the table, but I did go. There was a huge American flag flying at the end of the street. And the choir on stage asked everyone to stand and face the flag and sing the National Anthem. Now, I have been Ms. Patriotic since I was about five years old. My father would take me to all the American Legion parades in Queens and Brooklyn and I would march with him holding my hand, proudly waving my flag. I had red, white and blue clothes and I was always decked out in poppies on Memorial Day. I think I learned the Pledge of Allegiance soon after I learned to speak. Rarely have I ever made it through the Pledge or the Anthem without being totally choked up. So, what happened to me today really took my breath away. I had no desire at all to sing. I was angry and hurt and felt too betrayed by my country today to pay tribute. It seemed like Trump’s racist country now and I felt thrown aside. It was an awful moment but I remained silent with my head down in shame.

We left and on our way to the car ran into “Veterans for Peace” set up in front of the Capitol building. Seeing all the names of dead, beloved relatives who died mostly in the worst, most pointless war ever, “Vietnam,” was far from uplifting. I thanked these sweet, older veterans for setting up the display and moved on only to run into a long line of marchers with matching tee shirts that said, “Survivor” on them. They were a good looking young bunch, mostly male so I stopped one and asked, “What have you survived?” “Suicide, ma’am.” First I gulped real hard, teared up quickly, stopped in awe and admiration, but thought, “Can this day end soon? Can this week end soon?”

I missed the 9:00 service this morning. I needed it, but I was too sick to get up early and had to go to the memorial service. Instead, we went to the Celtic service by candlelight at 5 pm. Leonard Cohen died in this sad week as if we didn’t feel broken enough and his Hallelujah has looped through my head non-stop. There was a harpist and a pianist and though they weren’t playing “Hallelujah,” what they were playing was similar and beautiful and my tears began to fall without pause. As I lit a candle for my sister’s illness, for my friend’s illness, for the bereaved parents, for my sons who struggle, and for our country to survive the madness I was lost in the darkness and the flickering flames lighting the way. The newest clergy member, our 30 year old liberal, nursing mama, mother of two, brave, one-smart-cookie was delivering this difficult sermon. She addressed our sorrow, our disappointments, her offer to listen to anyone at anytime and the encouragement to look out for and help each other. She reminded us of God’s love and suggested that during the passing of the peace we look deeply into each other’s eyes. My eyes couldn’t focus enough to do so, since my hot tears were now running into my collar. I was as they say here in the south, “a hot mess!”

Receiving communion was somewhat redemptive, but emotional as well. I drew closer to my own heart, closer to my God, trying hard to convince myself that all would be well in God’s time but, when I think about the hurtful words being hurled at others I begin recoiling. I am worried. I am concerned. I am so, so sad.

Well I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen

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ELECTION 2016, RALEIGH, NC

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Beth and I decided we weren’t really needed at the polls at quite 6:30 a.m. and we could wait awhile to see who needed help where. As volunteer poll greeters for the Democratic party we were to be rovers filling in as needed with one designated assignment from 11-2 pm at a church in Raleigh. Early on, I checked in with my friend, the author and creative smart woman who was working at a poll in Cary, NC. She was isolated and uncomfortable with the total Republican turnout there and craved company so off we went. When we arrived there it was worse than she’d described. I didn’t even know that anyone still bought Cadillacs, but there was a plethora of Escalades and every other towering SUV guzzling as much gas as possible in this parking lot. There was nary a Prius to be seen. There were FOUR Republican greeters here and it was one big party with each voter hugging and gushing all over them as they came to vote. I quickly surmised that perhaps they all attended this church and that was their connection. Eventually our author friend has to leave and we stuck it out as long as we could, moving onto friendlier territory.

 

This past summer, I’d been invited to attend a meeting of GASP, described as a political women’s group. Over the years this acronym stood for Girlfriends Actively Supporting the President, Girlfriends Appalled about Sarah Palin, and most recently, Girlfriends Actively Supporting Progress. I went reluctantly to the brewpub across the street from my condo and learned that I should bring a folding chair with me to each Monday meeting because it was a long time to stand! At first I felt it was a bit too rah, rah, too cheerleader, too “girlfriend” for me, but in due time, I was hooked. Each week I met another handful of candidates running for judicial spots, governor, senator, commissioner of labor, and I even came to understand the job of insurance commissioner which turned out to be fascinating and inspiring! I was learning about each candidate running for office in a way I had never done before and it was completely fascinating to me. We were all encouraged to sign up for poll greeting, cold calling, door knocking, letter writing, and driving voters to polls. We each sent a handwritten note to Senator Elizabeth Warren asking her to come to North Carolina in support of our candidate for senate, Deborah Ross and I’ll be damned if she didn’t heed our request, appearing with Hillary Clinton at a rally here in town! We then saw the Flash Mob produced in NYC called Pantsuit Flashmob in support of Hillary and were so taken with it that at one meeting we all started dancing while watching it. By the following week, one of the choreographers, a former NC high school student, showed up at our meeting and let us know that YES, we were going to have our own version right here in Raleigh, NC!

 

Beth was away when that news broke and I couldn’t wait to share it with her but she was adamant in saying that no way would she participate. I was disappointed since I’d found that the only way I was usually comfortable in this group was when I did have a friend by my side. I asked my husband if he would be willing to be in this mob and he agreed so I was ready to learn. We would all wear pantsuits and learn the steps to dance in front of the Civic Center in Raleigh. Our music was Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” which shall remain on loop in my brain for a long time to come! What a thrill that day was under a perfect Carolina Blue sky with just right temperature as we danced our butts off in front of cameras and drones! There were little girls and boys spinning and whirling and even one with a mini-podium that said, “Next Woman President.” And yes, Beth danced too and was beaming! It is here at the end for posterity.

 

Shep and I went to vote early and it was a quick process. I always tear up after I vote, feeling so deeply privileged and grateful for the democracy I live in that cares about what I feel is best (or at least I always thought so.) I also think back to my very Republican father who formed our political views from an early age. My mother wanted nothing to do with voting which seems terrible to me now. I was a Goldwater fan and campaigned heartily on the Nixon bus in NYC, neither of which I am particularly proud. I know my father would have come a long way from those beliefs he held when he’d seen this race. He would have NEVER supported the likes of Trump. But without my father’s guidance any longer and on my own, I also know that I have never felt so well informed, knowledgeable of candidates and understanding who does what than I did this year. I was deeply grateful to the GASP meetings for that and will never again rest on my laurels but will stay the path of a responsible and educated voter.

 

Early voting finally dawned and Beth and I headed to the community center we were assigned. We gave out Democratic slate cards to those who wanted them and encouraged folks to vote “all the way to the end of the ballot because the judges and the transportation bond are all really important.” Folks were nice and mostly Democrats so we were comfy and altruistic. Amazingly, Beth came up with tickets to an outdoor amphitheater for THAT very night where Hillary, Bernie Sanders and Pharrell Williams were scheduled to appear. I raced home, picked up Shep and off we went, despite his reluctance. We had to park far away and ran most of the way to the theater, knowing we were late. When we got through the gate, this usher pulled us into a row where we had no idea where we were headed. Suddenly, we could walk no further and damn—there we were a mere six rows back, smack dab in front of the three of them! A most thrilling night for sure and I teared up over and over! Bernie was amazing, just completely amazing. Hillary was so professional, secure, confident, well equipped for the job like no other and had my complete confidence. As for Pharrell, well he was cute but Shep asked me “How’d that guy get the part of talking and introducing everyone?” “That’s Pharrell Williams” I said, remembering that my husband has never kept up with pop culture.

 

The following Saturday, I was home alone and got a FB message that said, “Lynn Rd Early Voting is a madhouse, needs help,” and so off I went with my cards to hand out to a line that ran a mile out and cars parked all the way to the end of the road. So much for “early voting” because as it would turn out thousands heeded the encouragement and waited hours on early voting lines but when Election Day dawned there were no lines at all! Even then, I remember wondering how in the world anyone on that line could be supporting Trump after all the terrible, demeaning, sexist, racist, homophobic comments he made, the hatred he glorified, and the violence that erupted at many of his rallies. I just didn’t get it at all but was quite sure that we had nothing to worry about. However, when the slanderous, untrue second onslaught of email accusations came hurling towards HRC things seemed to be deteriorating. Taking the words back as lies, was too little too late in many ways.

 

An election night party was planned with GASP. There’d be music, and food and drinks while we watched the returns together celebrating. And when November 8. 2016 finally dawned in North Carolina, Beth arrived and off we went to the polls. We went from one to another all day until the polls closed. We stopped once to buy some water and some chocolates for the hard workers and doled those out. I said at one point right around then, “Beth what if this is all surreal and someday we remember going to Harris Teeter buying snacks right before the world was about to collapse?” She told me to stop. There was a nervous part of me all day long. We got back to Beth’s car after the polls closed, we hugged and were kind of giddy with excitement by now and went home to watch the returns. The one we were a tad nervous about was Deborah Ross because she had a challenging and very nasty, lying incumbent to beat who’d aired terrible ads against her. However, the confidence in “I’m with her,” the mothers and daughters we watched all day long vote together for this historical election for what would be our first woman prez, was solid.

 

I got home before Shep as he was working another poll as was my son, Oliver. I began watching the returns and immediately had an awful sinking feeling. When I called Oliver to tell him, he said, “I’m not even speaking to you. This is ridiculous with 1% of the returns in.” I felt panicky right from the onset. Then when Shep came home he started cooking food, making his lunch for the next day, his usual routine. I wanted more than anything for him to sit next to me as horror began to unfold but he didn’t and I felt terribly alone. I asked him to stop and sit with me but he didn’t. I finally left and went to the brewery where the celebration was to have been. One woman was pulling down all the campaign signs, others were huddled crying and hugging, and others were in the embrace of their partners. All were stunned. Shep showed up in the darkness and we left to go home. I stayed up watching one state after another fall into the devil’s lair until I finally went to bed in a rage. At 3 a.m. I awoke in a sweat and jumped up to check my computer. The die was cast. The deed was done. I was awake for the count and I was in a complete state of shock, where I remained over the next several days along with the rest of the world. I was so surprised when the two clients I was supposed to see didn’t cancel. I mean really, you are just going on like it’s an ordinary day? Everyone I knew was unraveled in the most deadly sort of way.

 

And so, only four days have passed and it feels like 400 with me wishing that indeed four years had gone by in lightening speed. There are no do overs. There is violence and hatred being spewed everywhere against blacks, Muslims, gays, Jews, and more. License has been granted. Example has been shown. Imitation has begun of the ugliest and sickest sort. The hatred is sown day in and day out and in a couple weeks a celebratory parade is to occur HERE in my community by the Ku Klux Klan. I mean how is that even possible? How can that occur? They who use the most vile language to describe the best of us and promote violence and death to those of another skin color get to have a celebratory parade? Seriously?

 

And do not patronize me by saying, “Hey it was just a contest with one winner and one loser. Settle down. Don’t get so involved.” Bullshit. This is not Bush winning over Gore or Obama winning over Romney or other tamer, more civilized elections. Those may have been political contests where the loser’s fans were so disappointed, but nothing like this. Where our very values as good, kind, loving, tolerant, open minded, supportive, accepting, diverse, Americans are validated and encouraged rather than spat upon. And though I’d lost sight of HRC being the first woman when I instead became so impressed with her credentials just as a statesperson, there was that. We ran a woman, dammit and we’d wanted to break that barrier with the very best woman we could garner. The glass ceiling designed for the celebratory event, remained unbroken and likely in a museum forever.

 

I haven’t slept all night yet. I know that I will soon, when I stop waking at 3 am wondering if this could really have happened as well as trying to think of how I can protect others from harm. It is as many have said, very much like a death with shock and grieving following. I like most, have no idea where we go from here, but we were so much stronger together than we were making America great again. And all the red hats made in China were ironic at best. America was already so great in every way. Now, I am not so sure.