Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past

I saw part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV in all its freezing, teeth-chattering announcer glory - the huge ballooning animals, the marching band from Texas.

When I first moved to NYC in my youth, I worked in Macy's toy department. Dolls. My boyfriend worked in toy cars and wore a tie made out of some weird paisley material I got on Orchard Street to make into curtains. It was often raveling along the edges, to the disgust of the White Flowers, and he was not invited to return to work there after Christmas. I still have the coat I bought after a few paychecks. It's hanging somewhere in a closet with its little faux fur collar, reminding me of all the times I shivered my way home from Herald Square in the cotton unwarm Macy’s jacket I had to wear to sell dolls.

They asked me and a couple of others to be in the parade the year I worked there for the holidays and I said yes at first, but then it turned out they wanted us to wear skimpy outfits – bathing suits, I think – and it was freezing and I’d moved there recently from the tropics of Miami, so I said no. Now I wish I’d stuck to the yes, #metoo notwithstanding. I was SUPPOSED to be in the Macy’s Parade sounds very different from I was IN the Macy’s Parade!

Wooden elevator macy's top floors .jpg

Killer Nashville 2018

I'm just back from the Killer Nashville Conference with a phone bulging with pictures of the mountains and the city, of the insides of bars, singers on stages, the wonky shots of conference-goers, blurring in the light and not so light, of Linda Sands looking like a Fleetwood Mac impressionist painting, grabbing her (Congratulations, Linda!) award for best Action Adventure novel.

But I'm filled too, like my phone. I'm filled with memories of good food and company, and so-so wine. I'm filled with laughter, the validation of good friends and conversation, but most of all, I'm filled with something more elusive. Awe, or inspiration, with the camaraderie of being for three days with other writers, with knowing that they understand the angst and isolation, the frustration and delight This conference makes me want to be a better writer, reminds me of the days I pulled down the toilet lid and wrote in our one bathroom because it was the only room in the apartment with a lock. This conference reminds me why I write, and in a way, reminds me who I am.

My Mother's Treasures

They’re closing my mother’s bank, the one she went to before she died, just up the street from the condo she rented when she moved to Atlanta at the end of her life. She was meticulous, making the going-through of her things much easier than the going-through of my things will be, probably, since I am not at all meticulous. She had a safety deposit box.

I didn’t really remember what was in it. I never added anything to it, although I could have. I mean, it was in my name too. I just never felt I had anything important enough to warrant a safety deposit box, plus it was on the other side of town and the whole double key vault thing made me claustrophobic.

A few weeks ago, I got a letter from the bank, telling me they were closing and to come clear out the box, and I put it off for a while, but then the other day I found the key and went down to get her stuff.

The bank looked the same, except for the dearth of people. Wasted space, the manager said, sweeping his slender hand in the general direction of all the empty, glassed-in offices that used to be filled with efficient-looking bankers lurking behind their nameplates and thumbing through Things of Great Importance.

Together we tromped back to the vault, where he and his assistant swung open and then closed (to my discomfort) the door, and we scanned the boxes for number 601. When it was spotted, the two keys were simultaneously inserted, the metal door opened, the red box extracted and, with a little kerfuffle and glitz, set on a table for my perusal. I glanced at the manila envelope and two small jewelry boxes, stuck everything together, and headed for home with my mother’s treasures.

I brought the envelope upstairs. I shut the door and sat on the bed. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, pictured my mother sailing through a thousand different moments – in Michigan, Chicago, in Miami and lastly here in Atlanta, dressing up to go out with her friends, sitting on her flowered sofa in sturdy white SAS shoes, or walking me to the end of the hall, waving as I got on the elevator to leave.

I don’t know exactly what I expected to find when I emptied the contents onto the bed. There were a few papers in a smaller envelope marked Important Information, but it was mostly her living will and a bunch of signed testimonies to the fact that her birth certificate was lost in a Henry, North Dakota vital records fire a million years ago. The jewelry boxes held, respectively, one brooch and a tiny gold chain with two tiny pearls and a hand-written note that said my godmother had given this to me when I was born.

I sat for a while, staring at the contents of this space my mother felt compelled to rent, at the miniscule collection sitting in the middle of my bed. I thought about how big everything about my parents had seemed once, how vibrant and daunting, and I wondered at the shrinkage, at how small a life is really, like the two pearls strung along a tiny chain in a blue velvet box.

I went to Home Depot to get grout - an adventure all on its own, with some random customer deciding to take on my project and giving me a lengthy talk about sanded vs unsanded, 1/8" or smaller/larger gaps, etc.

When I'd paid for the grout, a guy who worked there slung the bag over his shoulder and walked it out to my car and on the way I noticed the bag was leaking just a tiny bit (because I'd initially tried to rip off a tiny piece to see if I had the right color) I brushed it off his back where it had leaked and made a joke about cementing himself if it rained, but then all the way home I was thinking about how if I got some in my eye from the flying bits when I brushed him off and then my eye started watering, would I have a permanently-cemented eye? And then I wondered if other people obsess on things like this or is it just me?

 

A Slightly Different POV

So much is being said about the children being separated from their parents when they come over the border, the terror, the cries for their mothers. And the response from some is that these parents are breaking the law.

I would like to weigh in here because I taught many immigrants in this situation. They are not THOSE PEOPLE. They are mothers, fathers, grandparents, basically, they are us. They risk their lives and the lives of their children to come here because the conditions they're escaping are not endurable. They know what's at stake. They know the risks involved, the dangers of the trip TO the U.S. border, let alone the possible imprisonment if they manage to get here. And being separated from a frightened child is torture for any parent.

If you had a choice - if they were both horrible choices - to stay where you were and watch your children be sucked up and possibly killed by gangs and cartels and lawlessness and the other choice was grabbing that one chance to save them or yourself, what would you do? I know what I would do. I'd save my children or die trying.

Punishing people for their bravery, for their passion to find a better life for themselves and their kids is simply wrong. And punishing children, who had no say in any of it is disgusting.

My first ancestor came here the same year as the Mayflower. He wasn't on it, though. He came here from Scotland, a wanted man for refusing to obey the king of England. He was a fugitive, an outlaw, He was a criminal.

Book Worm

In my zeal for healthy eating and because I was out of potato chips, when I took a writing break today, I decided to stick some kale in the oven and make kale chips -a little salt, a little olive oil . . . I carefully picked off the leaves and washed them. There was something brown I thought was a bad branch so I poked at it. It was a little soggy. Hmmm, thought I, a rotten spot, and I scrounged around for my reading glasses, which I almost immediately wished I hadn't found because the rotten spot was actually a huge caterpillar or worm or whatever, and it was still alive!!! I've JUICED with that kale! I've had that kale in my REFRIGERATOR! By the time I took pictures of the thing and got the store manager on the line (Do you ever actually LOOK at your produce???) I was already feeling a few retroactive caterpillar-worm-juice consumption repercussions. The manager informed me that the kale was from California and assured me there are no poisonous caterpillars OR worms in California, which I'm sure he hasn't actually researched, and said the whole point of not using insecticides is to not kill things (including humans) which I suppose is true. He assured me I have a freebie coming. It won't be kale! My husband, after making sure the cats wouldn't find it because, of course, their constant hunting and mole eating has made their systems far more delicate than mine, suggested it was a bookworm.

Earth

I was looking out at the garden where there will be vegetables eventually, where other things will sprout up unexpectedly and unidentifiably from the compost pile of juiced plant insides. I was thinking about my neighbor who disappeared five days ago and  Brown Eyed Girl was oozing out from somewhere in the yard, making me feel like dancing, like everything is fertile and returning and that when someone dies, when someone leaves, you feel it. There’s the loss, of course, the sadness, but there’s something else, too – a little surge of energy, as if the smallest piece of tapestry has broken off, a tiny piece of you, of me, of all of us, that now is free.

galaxy.jpg

Copyright © Susan Crawford.      Web Design Jill Evans      Background Image for Site: Stock, Background Image for The Pocket Wife: Christophe Jacrot.