Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cookies in a lunchbox

I have a favorite writer and her name is Anne Lamott. She has, through her books, literally guided me through the craziest moments, just because she has documented her life and the lessons she's learned so very very well. She turns the everyday into breathtakingly clear moments of hilarity and honesty and truth.

Now that I am starting to write again, I am also going to start following some of her advice: she says to start with short assignments, like "school lunches". Here are my (probably crazy)thoughts on School Lunches.

Paper Bag Pots of Gold

My mom is a teacher, and when we were growing up, she would leave for work before we left for school. But she always made our lunches, healthy and well-rounded, and she understood the social importance of the plain brown paper bag. And our lunches, on holidays, would usually have a surprise, usually chocolate, and a note. The notes would always fill me with a ridiculous amount of excitement, even though, publicly, I would scoff the babyness of it all. But really, there is something about opening a note from your mom in your school lunch that makes you feel so purely happy: someone LOVES me!

I am not a mother yet, but for a few years I was a nanny for three girls, aged 8 to 18. Being a nanny, especially a live-in nanny, is an extremely rewarding and confusing and lovely and unnatural thing. I loved those girls ferociously. I still do. But not quite like daughters, not quite like sisters, not quite like friends; like a daughter-sister-friend. A combination, that when combined with the fact that they already had a mother, sisters, and friends, and so did I, got extremely complicated.

Regardless, I found myself making school lunches for these girls and I loved making lunches for these girls. I wanted so badly to put in surprises and little notes for them, like my mother did for me, to give them that Someone LOVES Me! feeling of warmth. But I was not the mother, and that would be a clear step over the line in the ongoing political mother-nanny campaign. What was a nanny to do?

The nanny made the most kick-ass lunches ever.

I found myself waking up early to figure out what was in the fridge, what would be nutritious but also be very, very cool. I would not be the nanny who made sandwiches that were soggy, I would not throw in water crackers instead of cheez-its, and I would certainly not press two dollars into their hands as we rushed out the door. I packed trade-able items, items that really made a difference in the social hell of the lunchroom. I popped popcorn, I baked brownies, I cut apples and poured little Tupperware bowls of honey. I made Nutella and banana sandwiches, I sliced brie and avocado. In a nutshell, I rocked their social and nutritional worlds. I made paper-bag pots of gold. And they knew I loved them. I know they knew.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cookies in a Tube

Cookies in a tube are the kind that my Grandmother makes--the kind that you slice, that have little pictures in the middle, of stars, or bells, or creepy Santas. The kind of cookies that Cher, in Clueless, didn't slice but instead threw the whole roll in the oven. "Honey, you baked."

Anyway, that brings me to that old saying: write what you know. But here's the THING with that damn saying; sometimes, I feel like I know something so well that I can't even begin to describe it. I don't know where, or what, or how to write something that is so ingrained in the person that I am.

For example, my Grandparents.

I, for some reason, am a little obsessed with my Grandparents and their pasts, how they grew up, how my parents grew up, and how that then influenced my sisters and me. We grew up going to my Grandfather's house in the mountains during the summers, and I can't tell you how many times I've tried to explain that place. I've never been able to do it RIGHT. I've never been able to describe just everything--the house, the mountain, the river, the history, the love, the spiders--everything that it is or everything that it was and how that all mixes together. I'll probably never quite be able to do it, but I know I'll keep trying, even if it means throwing the whole tube in the oven.


My Grandfather and I were fixing
a white closet door;
I propped and held and pushed as he hammered
and ho-hummed and pondered, until
he stopped mid-bang and turned to me: you
have my mother's hands, he said, and he took
them, held them, turned them over
in his strong, aged palms.

His mother was Etta, Etta Fisk until
Mark Munson sauntered in and swept her up
to the Berkshires, where her memories began as vividly
as mine, as my mother’s, as my grandfather’s:
clumpy dirt roads, the Westfield river
with its slippery rocks and sunfish, the wind
through the grasses, stirring up
the mosquitoes, the smell of chimneys and rain.

In the evenings, my mother, very young,
would beg Etta, beg
and plead to brush her hair, her long
long hair, longer than long.
And Etta would smile and her hands
would reach for her braids,
two of them, wound up
and around, every day.

Her fingers would unwind, unbind,
pour the softness so it fell like
water, and my little girl mother would run
through it, play peek-a-boo, pretend inside.
Then she would brush and brush and brush it,
until Etta, with her long fingers,
would tickle her away.

My Grandfather held my hands and shook
his head, smiled. I wanted to tell him that
I would wear them proudly, that I was honored,
that I would make a difference
with her hands, and he squeezed
them as if to press in love, as if to say only
one thing: Remember.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


the terror comes back sometimes,
cocky, swaggering, like it owns this town.

when i feel it i hide,
bolt behind the saloon, peek out
through the slatted swinging doors, i let
it stay as long as it wants.

but someday. someday soon,
i will see the dust rising beneath its boots,

i will feel its shots, feel pain, and i will

get up, plant my feet, cock back
the hammer and stand firm.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

FIrst Cookie: Seven layers

This is an obvious thing to say:
it's my first blog post.

Is that even what I call it?

Anyway, it seemed time. To make the first one, I mean. I set up this blog months ago. And then, I was really motivated and excited, but also...blank. And for a myriad of reasons, I'm not anymore.

I learned something this week...and I'm going to admit that it, too, is obvious. But I forgot it and learned it again this week. And it is this:

I have today.

Living in the moment is a very hard thing to, but when the voices stop, the tornado passes, and the eye of the hurricane is above me, I need to remember that having really all I need.

There are more layers to this, but I'm just going to leave it there. For now.