Color of

“War is what happens when language fails.” — Margaret Atwood

* * * * *

This is the color of my voice these days … Almost Silent.

Imagine it there

in a box of 64 crayons.

In my mind’s eye, Almost Silent is wrapped in Ecru

Courtesy http://www.art-paints.com/Paints/Body/Ben-Nye/Color-Cake/Ecru/Ecru-xlg.jpg

But its waxy innards are sea green.

Almost Silent, when taken to paper,

magically scribbles in a shade of blue

known only to the indigenous people

of an island yet to be discovered.

But I recognize it instantly when

I see the child’s drawing of a

heart within a heart within a heart within a heart.

Once, I remember, I fingered gel

that shade on my way out of the womb.

 

 

Love is as close as the refrigerator door

When I was a girl, our refrigerator was stocked. Not just with food, but with memories.

My mother liked to collect magnets from places she had visited — and while it’s difficult to remember exactly from where and from when, I do distinctly recall a trail of experiences splattered like paint across the front of a series of refrigerator doors of my childhood.

It’s a tradition I’ve, without much serious intention, carried forward. It started when I moved in with my now-husband. He already had a few refrigerator magnets that predated me, but we began building a refrigerator of love of our own. The first addition was a magnet we found at a gift shop in Hoboken where we lived at the time.

We loved the quote so much we incorporated it into our wedding invitation.

Marcel Proust let us be grateful

A few weeks ago, after a bunch of dreams of messy houses, I realized my home was in need of attention. In the middle of mopping up the kitchen floor, I noticed how dirty, disorganized and jumbled our refrigerator had become. We had been mindlessly putting up A+ exams, beautiful art class drawings, and promotional magnets from every local business, from the hairdresser to Pinchi the clown, birthday party extraordinaire I don’t ever remember being entertained by.  I don’t have “before pictures,” but imagine a Leap Frog alphabet game scattered in more than 26 places; a Made in China set of Hebrew letters ready to be choked on by a visiting baby; and hidden beneath five field trip permission forms was the Marcel Proust quote.

I held it in my hands — saw how smudged and worn it had become in 13 years — but smiled knowing it remained. Intact, across continents and seas; still stuck to my refrigerator door.

I spent some time then sorting, throwing away, and putting the dusty alphabet letters in a bag to give to a friend whose children would use them — mine had grown too old for them while I wasn’t paying attention.

I filed away some papers, recycled others. I organized the promotional magnets in a big square on the hidden side of the fridge.

Afterwards, I pulled out the Marcel Proust quote — made it a centerpiece holding up a series of photographs that represented experiences we treasure, times and places … faces almost forgotten in the everyday rush of life.

I made love, once again, the focus of the refrigerator door. And said a quiet prayer that Proust’s words would continue to carry this family forward in 2014.

“Let us be grateful for people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Yes, our days, if only we are lucky, will still be filled with exams to study for, dentist appointments to run to, and permission slips to sign, but somehow, in spite of it and in light of it, let us be grateful for the people who make us happy.

Easily attached

The best thing I never bought was this orange comb-brush.

my orange brush

How do I know?

Because I’ve had it now for more than 30 years.

I got it as a party favor at a girl’s sleepover party when I was six.

It’s traveled with me through 4 schools, 10 or so homes, and at least 100 handbags and backpacks.

It survived our Wheaton terrier — the one we had for less than a year — whose teeth marks are forever indented on its frame.

It survived at least two perms.

And it survived Israeli lice.

If this orange comb-brush could talk, it would say:

“You should have waited til after the bubble burst to buy a house.”

It’s a wise comb-brush.

About 15 years or so ago, I lost the orange comb-brush for a while.

I looked everywhere for it. Under the driver’s seat of my Nissan NX, inside eight or so Le Sport Sacs, behind the toilets and underneath the sinks of everyone I knew. I couldn’t find it.

Finally, I understood. It was really gone.

And so I bought the purple comb-brush. I carried it around with me for over a year until one day I found the orange comb-brush in a drawer inside my parent’s house.

I was elated. But also eerily aware that as happy as I was, I would have been perfectly okay had I never found the orange-comb brush.

I was okay.

Without the orange comb-brush.

Today, I still have both brushes. The orange returned to its rightful place in my handbag, while the purple spends most of its time lying next to my kids’ bathroom sink narrowly escaping Israeli lice.

I will never give up that orange comb-brush willingly. But I will be okay if it’s once again lost.

And while I thought for a long time, I would never feel as attached to the purple comb-brush as I did to the orange one, I notice my attachment shifting, my affinity for it growing. I see it in my memories and look for it when it’s missing.

It’s the purple comb-brush that I use to braid my daughter’s hair.

It’s the purple comb-brush that greets me in the evening as I turn off the lights to the bathroom and wipe down their crusty toothpaste from the sink.

And when three teeth from the purple comb-brush melted after someone accidentally left it on top of the toaster oven, I was really bummed.

But I kept the brush. Even though it’s deformed and not quite as useful, we still use it.

Osho writes that “attachment brings misery, unattachment brings blissfulness,” which sounds harsh except he softens his admonition with a dose of compassionate, measured reality:

“So use things, but don’t be used by them. Live life but don’t be lived by it. Possess things, but don’t be possessed by them. Have things — that’s not a problem. I am not for renunciation. Enjoy everything that life gives, but always remain free.”

And it’s this balance — between the bliss of having and the misery of not; between the misery of having and the bliss of not — that I seek.

I found it in that moment when I realized I didn’t miss the orange comb-brush so bad after all … but I was still happy to have her around again.

And the moment that I realized the purple comb-brush wasn’t just a meaningless replacement; that things change and people grow and new memories form …and new loves appear where there was once only plastic.

The woman she used to be

I’m a woman so I know

what she wants you to remember is

the woman she used to be

the prankster the flirt the gymnast

she wants you

when you look at her

to see the girl in the rain

in braids

invincible

Tho she is mother

she is woman, she is girl

And just before she heard the baby cry she was imagining how she would do her hair for prom

up or down

She is thin and underdeveloped underneath that oversized formula stained tshirt

She is agile and eager behind that tired, uninterested frown

She closes her eyes, smells the bouquet you handed her and remembers

the wedding

She looks up and sees the underside of her mother’s chin

her mother’s grin

kissing her, thanking her for the macrame owl that Troop 422 made for all their mothers

In the mirror she is mother

but in her mind’s eye she is woman

she is a girl

they blend together and

she wants you to remember

like she remembers

the her behind Mother