Reclamation

Writey and Typey and Reclaimy

Last night, after all our guests had gone home, we were lucky that the cleaning was essentially limited to putting dishes in the dishwasher. We’ll be taking down the Christmas decorations tomorrow and Saturday, because I like them to linger a little bit.

There’s a fine line, though, with seasonal decor. Take it down too soon, and you regret it, feeling like you’ve sacrificed part of your celebration. Wait too long, though, and once-magical ornaments and fairy lights feel more like a pushy bellboy angling for a larger tip.

Still, we’ve taken one important step: for the first time since before Thanksgiving, we’ve removed the leaf from the kitchen table, shrinking it from a generous oval to an intimate round breakfast table once again.

Part of me misses the extra space – many mornings we all had our laptops strewn across the larger surface – but mostly I’m glad to have the space AROUND the table back, because it means the dogs aren’t quite so on top of each other as they move in and out of the back door.

It’s a first step toward reclamation, but an important one. The second step, begun this morning, was the cessation of the use of Christmas mugs. In truth, some are more ‘winter’ than truly Christmas, but it’s almost time to bring forth the Valentine’s Day mugs, and overlapping is tacky.

In other news: I’ve been really tired, and really writey, and I don’t mind the tiredness because it’s induced by the writeyness.

Happy 2014, indeed.

Bubbles

Bubble Glass and Candles

In the china hutch in my dining room is a collection of bubble glasses, each originally a pale pastel, though the tint has aged into mere hints of color. They were my grandmothers, then my mothers, then mine. I used them a few times a year, mostly for special occasions: Egg nog on Christmas Eve, brandy on New Year’s Eve, sometimes champagne because I don’t own flutes. Well, I do, but I like the bubble glasses better.

At times, they seem as fragile, these hemispheres of translucent colored glass, as soap bubbles. There are times when I think they might just float into the air, tinkling as they meet each other in a gravity-defying toast, and then settling back into the waiting hands of myself and a few carefully chosen friends.

* * *

I can’t imagine soaking in a bubble-less bath. Ever since childhood, with the exception of a few flirtations with the “blue water” created by Vaseline Intensive Care Bath Beads, I have loved bubble baths, and longed for a deep tub, full of soft piles of white bubbles.

My favorite bathtub was in the apartment where I lived with my mother when I was nine. It was in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, and it was a claw foot tub, and if you craned your head in just the right way, you could see the ocean through the tiny window.

My second-favorite bathtub was in the house Fuzzy and I rented in Sioux Falls, SD, our last year there. It was a prairie cottage, and it, too, had a cast iron claw foot tub, in a bright, airy bathroom.

My third-favorite bathtub is in the house we have now, in my (well, our) bathroom. The tub upstairs, the one guests use, is a plain old tub-and-shower combo with glass doors (I detest sliding doors on tubs). But in our bathroom, the master bathroom on the ground floor, we have a garden tub. It’s wide enough for two, and deep, and it’s set in a window (though, sadly, that window can’t be opened), and I spend many, many hours there, 40 minutes at a time.

Sometimes, when I’m soaking in the tub, one of the dogs comes to say hello, and I will catch up a handful of bubbles and blow them into the air. Teddy often ends up with bubbles on his head, and he tries to eat the ones that float. Max is more cautious (though he has a taste for scented (flavored??) bathwater. Perry lingers at the edge of the room. Cleo used to sit on the step into my tub and wait for me to finish. I miss her at bathtime.

* * *

When you’re in the ocean, you pay attention to the bubbles because they tell you which way is UP. I remember a couple of times, when I was a kid, and reckless, being rolled in whitewater when I misjudged where a wave would break. It disorients you. It makes you understand how people can drown in shallow water. Breakers are rough, even when the sand is less than a foot below you.

As I write this, I’m watching Blackfish, the documentary about the killer whales at Sea World. (I hate that we do this to animals. It’s one thing to have zoos to preserve species, it’s quite another to imprison animals solely for our entertainment.)

I shouldn’t be watching this right before sleep.
I keep watching the bubbles.

Image credit: limpido / 123RF Stock Photo

Perfect Moments in Pretty Cups

wedgewood-espresso When my parents came for Christmas, they brought with them a very special gift. It wasn’t a Christmas gift, mind you, but a we-want-you-to-have-this-now-so-we-can-see-you-enjoy-it kind of gift, mixed with a dash of stop-whining-about-not-having-pretty-demitasse.

The gift in question, pictured in this post, is a set of four Wedgewood espresso mugs with matching saucers, which originally belonged to a woman our family always referred to as “Auntie Annette,” and from whom I got my middle name.

Annette, of course, isn’t technically a relative at all, but an ‘affectionate’ auntie, one of my grandmother’s best friends from during my grandfather’s active-duty military days. My memories of her are dim, though I last saw her when I was nineteen or twenty, at my actual aunt’s house in Connecticut. I remember her as having perfectly coiffed, gray hair that, despite the faded color, was incredibly healthy. And I remember that she was honest, but honest from a place of kindness. And I remember that she always smelled really good.

Mostly, though, I remember her dogs. Or at least one of them. She always had a toy poodle, often a “pocket toy,” generally black, often given the same name – Nanette.

How can you not love a woman who sipped espresso from Wedgewood cups and owned dogs?

These mugs aren’t my only connection to this woman who was much more involved in my mother’s life (and the lives of her sisters) than in mine. Upstairs in the Word Lounge, I have a copy of a book I’ve had since I was six: A Very Young Dancer, about a young girl named Stephanie who is chosen (hand-picked by George Balanchine, actually) to play Marie in the New York City Ballet production of The Nutcracker. (Stephanie’s story (click here) is not all sunshine and flowers – if you loved the book as much as I did – and still do – you might want to skip the link.)

And there are a couple of scarves and a hat in boxes that came to me through my grandmother.

But the mugs…the mugs are the thing I’m really excited and touched to have, partly because my mother brought them to me, after they traveled with her to Mexico over a decade ago, and has used them, and partly because they have a sense of family history that a book about people I don’t actually know can never have.

As I write this, my espresso machine is gurgling, sending a perfect shot into one of these cups. The sun has just broken through the clouds after three days of grey skies and two days of nonstop rain (which we needed, but still…) and there’s a cardinal singing a happy morning tune in the tree outside my kitchen.

Sometimes, all it takes for a perfect moment is a shot of espresso in a pretty cup.

Lost and Found

So, I have a new cousin.

Well, not a new cousin. She’s thirty-five.

A new-to-me cousin.

I don’t want to ‘out’ her by mentioning her name, and her story isn’t mine to tell, either, but we’ve exchanged texts and become Facebook friends, and hopefully in a few days when things are a bit less overwhelming, we’ll get to actually talk, because she seems like a neat person, and as someone who is (biologically) an ‘only’ child, I have a special fondness for finding family members.

So, my message to her was just to welcome her to my crazy, smart, diverse, stubborn, loving family.

Of course, our family is not without its share of angst.

Whose is?

But I’m not part of the angst in this case, merely an outside observer, but today that distance, that detachment put me in the position of offering comfort and advice from someone from whom I’ve often sought solace for myself.

It’s odd, this role-reversal that happens as we get older. I sat down intending to write about all the strong women – both in my family, and in the greater world – that I’m privileged to know, and instead I find myself marveling about my own inner strength, and musing about paths untaken that I’m still considering.

I love that I find new things about myself and about the world every day.

And I love that lost and found don’t have to be opposites, because both conditions share a similarity: they represent change.