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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Myron's Chair

The easy chair that belonged to Myron, my father, was a dark green leather club chair. By the time he died it had dominated the living room of every house we lived in, and it had definitely seen better days. As we divided up the household goods, I think all six of us wanted to take that chair home as a reminder of our childhood. But by that time the leather was pocked with cigarette burns, at least one of which had expanded into a four-inch tear along one of the arms.

 

I see Myron in that chair, his long legs stretched out across the matching ottoman. On the floor beside the chair was a standing ashtray, a pedestal topped with a removable heavy smoked-glass dish that was always full of butts.

 

Cigarettes perfumed every room of our house when we were growing up. Both Myron and Eileen, our mother, smoked. One of them unfiltered Camels, the other unfiltered Luckies, though I can't remember who smoked which brand. The ashtrays throughout the house always needed to be emptied. The post-prandial cigarettes were stubbed out on the dinner plates. At the time that seemed normal—well, it was normal at our house—but imagining the practice now I can't think of anything more disgusting. No wonder we kids never wanted to do the dishes!

 

The club chair was where Myron read the paper (The Chicago Trib once a week, the Indianapolis Star, or the Lafayette Courier) and drank his cocktail-hour manhattans. The chair was wide enough and deep enough to accommodate (when we were very young) skinny Myron and a pile of skinny kids on Sunday morning (after Mass, of course) when he would read us the funny papers from the Trib.

 

In the end the dark green leather chair was left in the old home town. I really don't remember how we disposed of it almost forty-five years ago. But I have a feeling that, if pressed, any one of us could still describe in detail the chair our father sat in.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

There's a Song in My Head

Give me five minutes more, only five minutes more—

to something something how much I love you.

 

Why don't I jettison from my brain the long string of first lines of superseded songs? Well, I just can't tell you why. But they arise alarmingly often to the surface of my mind.

Sometimes, if I stick with it, I can come up with all the lyrics of a particular song, whether or not it's worth the effort.

 

In the last weeks it has been The Beatles' "I couldn't dance with another, Since I saw her standing there." That's at the top of my recall because it's on our dance tape. But most of the lyrics in my head predate the Beatles by 20 or 30 years. Chickery chick, cha-la, cha-la, for example. Mairsie Doats. Or Cole Porter: Miss Otis Regrets. I've Got You Under My Skin. You Go to My Head. Or old camp songs: Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me. Down by the Old Mill Stream (including the cabaletta with the patter that's funny to under-ten girls).

 

I'm gearing up for the days when the only words left to me will be the words to the songs the volunteer pianist plays at The Home: Let Me Call You Sweetheart, for example. I'm ready to sing it for you right now, if you'd like.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Who Are All These People With Whom I Share the Planet?

Hubris is my middle name, whether or not I pronounce it correctly. Deep within me, unasked-for, is the knowledge that I am probably superior to everyone else. Well, everyone I don't know. The people I do know quickly reveal their strengths and excellent qualities and that revelation disabuses me of my untenable feeling of better-than.

 

Obviously such thoughts have no place in the heart of a seeker, so I am now consciously changing my ego-driven gut reaction.

 

Who ARE these people I know barely or not at all? Since I have no clues as to their nature or even their behaviour, wouldn't it be more appropriate to assign them activities and ways of being that elevate them in my mind rather than diminish them?

 

Let's take the Smiths. I frequently see these two retired people walking. But beyond those neighbourhood sightings, their lives are unknown. How they spend their time is a mystery, just as it is for any casual acquaintance.

 

So rather than wonder about the apparent lack of excitement or virtue in the Smiths' lives, I have come to the conclusion that they are closet Buddhists. Unbeknownst to us neighbours, they spend each day in meditation (jointly or singly I can't know) and prayer; they eat abstemiously; they revel in sending healing messages to all sentient beings.

 

Well, who would have thought? This has completely reversed my view of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I now imagine them as selfless, conscious beings committed to the good.

 

And having accomplished this turn-around in my thinking, I have begun to apply a positive spin to everyone I come in contact with. Those dispirited people on the subway are not living empty lives of despair but only seem dull on the subway because internally they devote their commuting time to meditation, prayer, attempts at enlightenment. Strangers are not who I originally thought them to be, but are infinitely better.

 

This way of thinking does nothing to diminish me. On the contrary, their gain, arbitrarily imagined by me, is also my gain. The world wins.

 

Now, if I could just successfully extend this generosity to everyone. Excluded, for the moment, from my benign thinking are those who barrel along the sidewalk without making room for others; those who steadfastly refuse to notice that the subway car is filling up and thus it might be time to move their feet or their giant backpack off the nearby seat; in short, anyone who annoys me while I am out in the world. Those who fail to shovel their walks after a snowstorm. Those who are publicly noisy when I want quiet. Those who are slow when I want fast, or fast when I want slow. Those, in short, who are not ME.

 

H'm-m. The new me seems to need additional work. Well, I've made a start. If I can open my heart a bit more maybe I can make room for uncritical views of first one other couple, then another. Then three. And then on to an entire subway-ful. It's a work in progress.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca