Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let Freedom Ring

I joined most of the country, if not world, today and watched the Inauguration. My oldest son's preschool lets out at 11:45. Usually, he plays on the field with his friends when I pick him up, but today I explained to him that we needed to get home to watch our new president get sworn in. He wanted to know what the president is. I told him that New York state is like his classroom, but instead of Mrs. Marinas, we have a governor. And the whole country is like his school, but instead of Sasha (the administrator), we have a president who helps make the rules, and works to make sure that everyone is taken care of and okay. This seemed to make sense to him.
We got home just as Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman were performing. Wasn't it glorious? Both of my sons sat on my lap, and were captivated. I had just started to cry, when suddenly the picture turned to black. I realized that my two year old was holding one of the many remotes that I have no idea what they do and had pushed some button and now there was nothing on the screen. Dan had Tivo'd the events before he left for work, but I really wanted to see it live. I could not figure out how to get a picture back, so I called Dan, interrupting a meeting - oops! - but if there is anything to interrupt a meeting about it is watching Obama become president. Dan walked me through, demonstrating the patience of a saint, and there on the TV was Obama giving his speech. My sons and I sat down again, though they were less interested now that the cello and violin weren't on anymore, but I adored every word. When Obama talked about how his father would not have been served at a restaurant sixty years ago, and now he here was, I started to cry. My oldest son asked me why I was crying, and I said because I am very, very happy. I hope he remembers this event. They never see me watch TV, so that alone might make it memorable enough, but I hope he remembers something of it. One of my earliest memories is when Mildred, the nanny who raised me, left. It wasn't long after Martin Luther King was shot, and Momma told me years later that Mildred just couldn't take the South anymore after that. I must have been three the afternoon she went away, but I'll never forget hugging her thin legs, and trying to keep her from leaving. She walked out the door in a blur of white from her uniform's skirt and her cigarette's smoke. All I knew was that she had to go because of someone named Martin Luther King, and I wanted to know who he was.
Five years ago, my oldest son was born on Martin Luther King day, and when he arrived, I felt that Mildred must have had a hand in it, where ever she was. I'm just so happy that the world he came into is so different from the one that she and I were in together back then.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Sounds of Silence

I am home alone, a rare and unusual feat. Dan took the boys to my mother's apartment that she keeps in Tarrytown. My oldest son, I am sure, is having a wonderful time playing with his cousin who lives in Great Barrington, and is, in his mind, the best thing in the universe, better even than airplanes. My youngest son is being doted on and played with by my mother and sister, and he will come home and talk about them for hours. And Dan is, no doubt, sprawling on the couch with the NY Times, and a game on the telly. When I told him that he would be able to watch sports to his heart's content over there, he said, "Cutie, it's an important day!" I am guessing that the upcoming Superbowl has something to do with that statement. I don't really know, though I look forward to hearing about it upon his return. What I do know is that I am immersing myself in quietude, and it is heaven. When they left, I straightened the house, and started a load of wash. I am one of the odd birds who actually enjoys light housekeeping, note I said "light"! Part of it is that it feels like a reclaiming of my home, a mini-nesting, as it were. It is also a great time for idle, rambling, stream-0f-conscious thought that always gives me information about the novel I am working on, and on my life in general. And also, because a novel is such a long process, there is a deep satisfaction in doing something and seeing an immediate result. A bed made. An egg cooked. Dishes washed. I finished the Sunday Times that came yesterday, (our delivery person can't make it up our driveway in the snow we are having, so Dan took the paper that came today out of mailbox at the bottom of the hill with him to Momma's), worked out on the rowing machine - my new love and life saver. I can even do it when the kids are around which is great because I refuse to pay someone to watch them so I can work out. And I caught up on a little email, am writing this, and will go have a long bath, and then I will sit in my living room and look out the long wall of windows that is the back of my house, and look at the snow, and be in a home where nothing is moving, and revel in silence and stillness.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wrapped Up and Tied With a Bow

It was (is) my birthday today, and it was a really lovely one. My sons woke me at 7:30 by tumbling onto the bed with cards they had made, and they snuggled up on each side while I read them. My almost five year old signs his name any chance he gets, so his had a huge signature, and my two year old had a piece of paper with beautiful scribbles on it, but as my oldest explained, "he thinks it says something." so we all pretended it did. Then Dan brought me tea in bed, made perfectly I might add, and I got to read some of the Stephen Pinker article in the NY Times Magazine section about genomes - really fascinating, then Dan made me Rocky Mountain toast which was totally yummy. Then Walter wanted to make cupcakes for Katie, our babysitter's daughter, since it's her birthday tomorrow, and the two year old needed a diaper change, and the dishes needed doing, and I was trying to get out the house for yoga, and I looked at Dan and said, "Cutie, you're being me." And he said, "I know, and it's really hard." I told him that there wasn't anything in all of Tiffany's that would have meant more to me Linkthan what he said. So, I went to a class at Yogaworks (hooray for downward dog) and they figured out how to make the cupcakes on their own. Then I came home and we all went for lunch at City Limits Diner where they have a great tuna melt and fries - my fave meal right now. The boys mostly ignored their pancakes, and ate my fries and played with their trucks. Then we braved the mall. And actually, it wasn't terrible. We found a great coffee table at Crate and Barrel at a ridiculous price (cheaper than the sale price) because it was the floor sample, and we've been needing to replace the steamer trunk we've been using forever, so that was a nice happenstance, and then I found an outfit, also on sale - love having a birthday during January - at J Crew. For some reason, the skirt isn't on the website, but it it's a great, kinda short, but not too, really simple black skirt with a bit of a retro feel to it, and here is the top. Okay, it looks awful on the web, but I promise it is really fun with the skirt. I think they will be great for a cocktail reception I have to go to next Friday in Florida, near Boca, at BookMania, a book festival I am doing. If you are down there, come by. It looks like it will be much fun. I love a lot of the other authors they are having, including my cousin, Alafair Burke. It'll be nice to do that with her. It's 71 there right now. I am SO thrilled to be going and leaving this snow. I am just not cut out for this weather. We're going to stay at Dan's parents in Boca for a week after the festival and I plan to be outside with the boys the entire time. But anyway, the big question is: what shoes do I wear with that outfit???

Friday, January 9, 2009

Living in Lingerie and other Southern Afflictions (i.e. a family of writers)

An essay I wrote about my transition from LA to NY was published this month in Westchester Magazine. It follows my adjustment from living in slips to wearing winter-worthy clothes. If you'd like to check it out, click here.

I wish I could wear only a slip right now. We are supposed to get four to eight inches of snow tomorrow. I'm happy my sons love it because I am just not cut out for this cold. My Southern (CA and LA) roots are calling.
PS While you are at the Westchester Magazine website (if you go), you can also check out an earlier piece I did for them about seeking my namesake in Paris. That one is here.

And, not to get tiresome, but Susan Larson of the New Orleans Times-Picayune gave my family a nice notice in her year end round-up. Six of us published novels in the span of four months in '08. She only knew of five (Andre Dubus III, James Lee Burke, Alafair Burke, Pamela Binnings Ewen, and myself) the sixth is my brother-in-law, John Lawson, who wrote a wonderful book, Hurricane Hotel and read from it at Spoken Interludes. Now, if I could only get us all in the same room for a show... You can read her piece here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A New Pair of Glasses

Well, it finally happened. My glasses broke. This was not a great surprise to me since I have two small sons who love pulling them off my face, but what with it coinciding with the new year, it is hard for me not to view this (pun intended, sorry!) as a metaphor. Off with the old and on with new sort of thing. Time, once again, for reckoning. Which, frankly, is all that I feel I've been doing since late December, and will continue to do for another week or so. My youngest son's birthday is late December, mine is very soon, and my older son's is mid/late January, so what with January 1 stuck in there, too, every year at this time, I have a nonstop month of "Look where you were before and where you are now." To be honest, it's exhausting. Not that it isn't joyful, too. It is nonstop cakes and parties, and I can't think of anything I'd rather do than celebrate my sons being here, but the four opportunities right in a row for me to reflect on time/life passages is a bit much. And I'm not even mentioning the other family and family-like members (okay, 5 of them) who celebrate at this time, too. I can only wonder if the Universe (yes, I did live in LA for years; I have anthropomorphized the Universe) thinks that I am particularly dense and need 4 tries to get this new year ritual right. Whatever it is. Because it changes every year. For the longest, and grimmest, time, I made lots of list. God save me. There were lists for everything, so certainly there were lists for the new year. What I would do, have, create (yes, this was in LA). Then sanity somehow descended, or would it ascend? And I stopped all of that. No more lists. And the amazing thing was that life got easier. More organized. I stopped feeling behind before I even got out of bed. But this year (please yell if you hear insanity approaching, I really won't mind), I am taking a tiny step back (or should that be forward?) to a list. But I am calling it the Non-list because it will never be written down where it can become its own terrible identity and taunt and tease me until I tear the goddamn thing up. In March. So there is no list, just the Non-list, a kind of internal what-I-feel-like-moving-towards thing. And so far, so good. But I'll let you know. It could fall apart tomorrow, though somehow, I think it won't. But either way, I'll still have a new pair of glasses. Until those break, too.