Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy 2011

I sent Christmas cards this year. To my friends who live far away. Don't quite know why. I felt the need to be in touch--felt somehow that my signature on a card: "Love, Kenny," and a sentence or two of "hello," was a way of saying to those whom I love that I love them. I also mailed a few gifts--things that also hold special meaning in particular relationships. I often buy things I like, and the person for whom I bought it doesn't come to me for months, sometimes years. My life is people; they are my riches, and I find myself going back, reaching back to those with whom I've lost contact--not heart contact, mind you, but that "hey, hiyadoin" contact. I need to reconnect. Remind them that my silence is just that. Nothing more.

I'm going to begin parting with some very special things. No, not in the way of my ever-dying foremothers. My great-grandmother was "near death" every, single one of her 96 years. My grandmother, her daughter, called her children together every few years to "divide her worldly goods" before her impending death, and even my beloved mother, God rest her sweet soul, had several occasions of impending death beginning at about age 45. So no, I'm of them but not like them in that way. Since I have no biological children, there are things that have meant so much to me--little things, meaningless in the financial sense, but these are gifts I want to give while I have the pleasure of watching someone I love smile with the understanding that it's a simple gift of love.

It was a lonely Christmas. I don't much like the holiday anyway, but I felt solitary, rudderless, acutely unattached. I was of course with my beloved partner and her family, but my family of origin--my mom and my brother--were so absent. No, the overwhelming feeling wasn't sadness; it was aloneness. I envy my friends who are grandmothers. I spent lots of time wishing I were a grandmother. More than anything, I want to be someone's grandmother. Not interested in motherhood at all, but I think a grandmother is the absolute best thing EVER.

No resolutions for 2011. I've got lots of stuff to work on each and every day. I'm gonna be the same me in 2011, and I suspect that most of what I resolve will, as in years past, well, you know. I look forward to retirement in 2011. Every day I feel a bit more free, unburdened. I look forward to doing new things. Maybe I'll be a grandmother or something. And I'll continue to find joy in the joys of others: an engagement ring, a trip to Argentina, a child's discovery, the dean's list, a wedding, a new drug for MS.

Perhaps I'll resolve my never-ending struggle with the divine. I feel the tug of the music, the cadences of the sermons the singing and the sway. Scripture comes to mind at the most inappropriate times, and those are times when nothing else seems to make as much sense anyway. Perhaps it's the pure poety: "God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help... Bless the Lord, oh my soul." Life was easier when I had no questions.

I look to 2011 with great optimism, great joy and a heart that overflows with love and gratitude for the life I've had the marvelous privilege of living. "Love without conditions; mercy unmeasured." Happy New Year y'all. May you receive your hearts' desires; weather all storms, and store all the peace and love you can hold. You'll need it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


This is the first place that I've lived that my mother won't see. It occurred to me in the midst of the move. It's a shame too because I love this house more than any other, except perhaps the first one I ever owned. The move inspired lots of thinking about my mom. As we moved Bunny's inheritances from her mother: fine furniture with marble tops, heirloom sterling and dishes that are now worth thousands, I smiled when I caressed those trinkets that were my mother's: a smooth stone, a wooden cross, her glasses and bible, a few pieces of costume jewelry. These are my treasures, and though they're worth nothing in terms of monetary value, they're items that I cherish. All remind me of my mama, and I found myself often saying: "Look, this is MY mama's stuff, and it means as much or more to me than fine gold."

These sentiments express a vast difference between my partner and me. Though we both grew with middle-class values and highly educated parents, her family was also economically middle-class. Mine was far from that. Though I certainly didn't as a child and young woman, I now appreciate my early deprivation. I need less material stuff to be happy. I love a bargain and great sales. I have good taste, but I'm also a smart shopper. I'm satisfied with less. I need less to be happy. I live in a perpetual state of wonder. This tiny 100 year old house in this tiny snow-covered village has brought me immense pleasure and joy. Nothing special about it. It's certainly modest by most standards, and it would be considered by some, a step down from our last house. For me, it's a huge step up, and I'm thrilled. I'm in a sense of wonder about my life now. I never, ever dreamed that I'd be able to live the life I now live. There's absolutely no material thing in this world that I want. Nothing. I have everything I need, and I just can't believe it. I've exceeded my material imaginings, and I don't choose to manufacture more. This is why I can retire next year. Will I have a ton of income? Nope. I don't need a ton. My freedom and my life are far more important to me than money.

My mama, who, like my partner, had an extremely privileged upbringing, lamented the loss of status her entire life. She hated "being poor" and agonized over the loss of her "very wealthy" childhood and young adulthood for her entire life. Mama would say she "married down," and when my grandfather's brothers and others "acquired" all of his wealth, my grandmother, who never worked, acquired enough to live comfortably for the rest of her life. Her children, however, didn't get much from their father.

My parents struggled my entire life. We lived in various ratty parsonages on Daddy's miserable salaries. When Daddy died (I was 13), we were left with nothing. No insurance, no Social Security, and a pension of less than $50. per month. My mother hatred working and hatred poverty even more. She never adjusted to deprivation and lived daily with the past that had long vanished from her life. Even as she was dying, she spoke to the father whom she adored and who provided her with the best of everything money could buy. As Mama died, she assured her father that "I've been a good girl."

My mother's sadness eventually became mine. Even as a child, I never mourned the absence of things. I was sensitive to my mother's sorrow in that regard. I worked, earned money for what I needed and made myself satisfied. I never asked for that which she couldn't buy, and I never complained about what I didn't have. The Christmas before my father died, he wasn't able to give us any of the things we wanted. My brother got a baseball shirt, and I got a stuffed dog. My daddy cried. I hugged him and acted like that dog was the single best present I'd ever received in my life. What mattered then and now is that my daddy didn't hurt because of what he was unable to buy me. Deprivation made me care about the real stuff that had nothing to do with money, and that's the way I feel today. I'm so, so grateful for this life I have, and I'm so, so grateful that I know what to want.

I count my wealth in human relationships. I count my wealth in love, kindness, good wishes and concern. I count my wealth in good deeds I'm able to do. And despite all criticisms I receive, I count my wealth by the ways in which I can help others who need when they need. So yeah, if my "little sister" from Big Sisters ten years ago, "ain't got no money to pay her rent," I'll send it to her. And yeah, if one of my students needs books or a ticket home or clothes, I'll buy them. If somebody mama can't feed her child, then she can have my last dime. That's just the way it is cause I got food and clothes and shelter and everything I need and more than that. I don't need to save for a rainy day cause it may not rain, and I may not be around when it does. I live in the here and now. I'm here by the good will, kindness, generosity and love of other people. So there's just no need to tell me about how I "have no sense about money." I do have sense. It's a different kind of sense. Money is a gift to be shared. That's the way it works in my world.

And don't leave this post thinking "I'm blessed," or "God is smiling on me," or none of that nonsense. God ain't got no reason for blessing me more than any other human in this world. God ain't smiling on me and frowning on the homeless. God ain't blessing me and cursing those in need. This ain't God. It's circumstance--a coming together of various circumstances. Just sayin'. If God is God, she ain't operating like that. No way. No how. Later.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


My friend, Marianne, says "never say never or always." Okay, I won't, but I will say I hope I never, ever move again in my entire life. And yes, that means I'm prepared to live in Canton for however long forever is. By the time Mary is ready to retire, I'll be 70 (gasp!), and I can't imagine uprooting and starting over at that age. I'm adjusting to the idea that Canton is home. Canton is home. Canton is home.

I've mailed my official notification of my intention to retire one year from now. After I return from Semester at Sea, I'll be busy trying to find ways to make myself a life here after St. Lawrence. I'm beginning to broaden my horizons in the north country. My work with hospice is the most fulfilling work I do. I love the people there. I suspect I'll do some adjunct work if SLU will have me. I'm likely to miss teaching just enough to teach one course per term. That would be fun.

I'm very excited about my new house. I'm excited about moving back to the village. If I can get through the next few days without falling apart (moving does that to me), I expect to have a long and fruitful life for the rest of my life in Canton.

Moving in the snow. We seem to love doing things the hard way. Later.