Archive for March, 2010
We’re all a bit sick over here with coughing and sneezing and the high temperatures that accompany that. Nothing new, we get so every Spring. As it is cold and rainy we spend our days wrapped in blankets, deep in our favorite chairs, books in hand, board games scattered across the floor. When we venture out, we quickly hurry back to the hot soup simmering on the stove and chunks of bread and butter.
It’s hubby’s birthday on Friday. Our goal is to have this nuisance out of the way by then, so the attention could be totally his.
Happy Spring to you all, and a healthy one!
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I got married at the City Hall on the Wednesday of Easter week. The air was filled with the fragrance of the lime trees lining the avenue in full blossom, promising a lifetime of conjugal love. The bountiful spring rain came and went as it pleased all day, beating against the half shuttered windows and bouncing off the cobblestones of the street. In the densely wooded mountains on the outskirts of the city, the creeks were engorged from the melting snow, causing panic in the townfolk that the river would overflow its banks.
I wore an ivory suit made of the finest taffeta, the skirt a good palm width above the knee, and carried a bouquet of Lily of the Valley. My sister had made the suit for me in two days, and it fit me perfectly and made me look as though I had stepped out of the doors of a Parisian fashion house. I was more anxious that the rain would ruin my dress than that it was a bad omen for my marriage. My long dark hair was coiled in braids atop my head, and my eyes were lined with dark kohl. I appeared mysterious and seductive and my new husband could barely take his eyes off me.
After we had signed before the justice of the peace and received the well wishes of our guests, we started toward our new house. The house my groom had made for the two of us was filled with cherry tree branches and blue lilac.
Sometime that night, our first night as husband and wife, the water rose higher and higher, seeping through the foundations and coming in under the door. We didn’t know of its cold presence in the room until it got in bed with us, sending icy fingers between our entwined bodies. We grabbed whatever we could get our hands on and climbed the stairs to the attic. That’s where we spent our Honeymoon, and our first Easter, worrying and watching the waters rise and recede, making love and dreaming of the future.
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I have a friend who’s a sexologist (a fancy word for a relationship therapist, if you ask me), and she told me recently that no matter how dire the economy, women will continue buying their lingerie, and men will continue going to strip clubs. I find this fascinating. It says so much about our roles. Men are happy with who they are, so they spend their money on getting aroused. Women, on the other hand, think they need improvement, and as such spend their money on ensuring that they arouse their men.
If that doesn’t objectify women, I don’t know what does. Why am I writing about this? I certainly like to look pretty and lounge around in my underwear. I like make-up, big hair, and lace. I also believe in common courtesies between the sexes. And I’m vain and enjoy getting attention.
I was at my mom’s and watched Oprah and the show had to do with the sex industry. I was watching the women in the audience. Everything about them was self-conscious. They were behaving like giggly teenagers. In fact, I still behave like a giggly teenager myself: just look at the way I spelled talking in the title!)
Sadly, sex still belongs to the man. The sex crimes going on in the world against women and children. Men’s doing. Our children and the lessons they learn from the media. Men again. But women are not completely blameless. We need to fully own our sexuality. Take it away from the men.
Embrace it. Speak openly about it, without fidgeting and turning every shade of red. Our boys and girls need to see that.
Does this sound crazy?
This is the architecture of my childhood. The stories behind these walls, the struggles, the joys, the day to day, from the most mundane to the most bizarre, are my inspiration. My grandmother and my Tante Marie loved to tell stories. In fact, they had a story for everything. I remember the time one of my aunts was bemoaning the fact that her daughter was not as beautiful as she. I was just eight and couldn’t understand what the big deal was. My aunt was stunning with her movie star looks and tremendous style. She seldom lacked adoration. Her daughter was certainly pretty, yet still a child. It was too early to tell. I felt they were being unfair.
My Tante pointed to the house down the street, the house where the redheaded woman lived. It was shuttered and mysterious. I had tried looking through the courtyard gates’ keyhole into the courtyard so many times, but the keys were always in the lock, blocking any chance of seeing in. The redheaded woman was a great beauty. Her daughter was not. The daughter had tried to strangle herself because of that.
I learned two things that day and regardless how much I tell myself it isn’t so, I still believe them both. One, a girl’s looks are her dowry, and two, a beautiful mother can be a curse to the less beautiful daughter living in her shadow.
(For more Corner View please visit Jane at #mce_temp_url#)
It is icy cold outside. The windowpanes are frozen. Every time the door opens to let someone in, a cutting gust of wind reaches in around the ankles and backs of those gathered around grandmother’s bed. There she is, propped up by silken jewel-toned pillows, staring at the magpies in the mulberry tree’s branches out her window. She has a lot on her mind. A lot that she needs to say now that they are all gathered together. Grandmother’s four daughters rub at their eyes with lace edged handkerchiefs. Their husbands, restless, keep shushing the children. Grandmother remains silent.
Finally the priest arrives with the notary and the sexton. The priest walks to grandmother’s side and mumbles something only she can hear. She gives a tiny shake of her head and the priest turns and shrugs his shoulders. She is refusing absolution. He tries once more, holding out the cross for her to kiss. It is in vain. She is undertaking the responsibility of her soul’s eternal life. It is out of his hands. Two of the daughters release a loud wail at this. And still, grandmother remains silent.
The priest must be paid. The sexton and his men carry in the large coffin. The notary moves himself closer to Grandmother and clears his throat. One of the daughters gets up and pays the priest, and lights the candle on the bedside table. Grandmother may do as she pleases, but she isn’t going to die without a candle lit. The daughters do not want that sin on them. They must remember to pay the sexton well. He must be generous in nailing the lid down. The children turn to stare in fascination at the coffin, giggling nervously that they are so near the presence of Death. And still, grandmother remains silent.
The flame of the candle dances about. The men watch it and sigh. Death is slow in coming. Just like her to keep them waiting, they all think. The notary sees it too and raises his eyebrows. The old woman will make him miss his supper, and of that he isn’t fond. Grandmother knows what is going on. She stares at the magpies with their showy tails. She knows that the sons-in-law want her land and her vineyard. She has a lot to say. And still, grandmother remains silent.
Outside the window darkness blurs the edges of the mulberry. The crows and the ravens begin to croak. The flame of the candle is even and low. The daughters keep wiping at their tears, the husbands now anxious that she’ll die before she wills them her fortunes. The notary dreams of the supper he’s missed, and the children are half asleep. Grandmother stares out the black window, her thoughts almost nonexistent. And just like that, the candle goes out and she closes her eyes. Grandmother remains silent forever.
(This is a work of fiction born out of my fascination with the superstitious minds of the villagers of my childhood. Visit #mce_temp_url# for more.)
My dad had given us an enchanted childhood. Because he had a sweet tooth and was at heart one of us, he believed in making our birthdays and holidays magical; he was, and still is, a wonderful cook and fantastic storyteller. Imaginative, playful, a prankster. Dad was a weaver of words, and those he spun around us at bedtime, until we fell asleep and dreamt of floating castles and impish fairies. I have very vivid memories of family trips to the sea, the mountains and the countryside, where he took us on walks through fields of blood red poppies or ancient forests, and bought us the sweets we craved without much prodding.
I suppose that’s what attracted me to my hubby right from the beginning. He had that great sense of adventure, that love of life, that playfulness, and that attentiveness that I’ve associated with great dads. And he turned out to be just as I thought he would. He’s patient, kind, gentle, loving. But most of all, he makes each day magical with his stories, his observations, his ideas, and his creations. I love that he’s a stickler for rituals and traditions, for family time and family meals, for walks in the woods and on the beach, for building sandcastles and flying kites, for kicking the ball and patiently teaching to kick the ball, for watching birds and watching people, and for believing in the potential in all of us. Daddies are precious!
(This is a re-post. I am working on a new short story post for Tuesday.)
Chocolate. This post has nothing to do with the scientific, lab tested benefits of the consumption of this delicious thing. First of all, I highly doubt that any dietician in their right mind would advise chocolate for breakfast. And truth be told, the recommended food pyramid works for me on most days.
Second, there are many books waiting on my nightstand and magazines on my coffee table that are eagerly awaiting their turn in the spotlight of my attention, for me to be so callous as to read a scientific journal. So, although I hear every once in a while that chocolate is good for the heart (and the brain??), I prefer to believe it without checking the facts.
I really cannot think of a better food than chocolate. Chocolate for breakfast is good for the soul. I’m ridden by guilt about most things (I can be a better wife, a better mother, a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend, a better neighbor… you get where this is going), however, I refuse to be ridden by guilt over chocolate. It’s too perfect for it, and it always treats me so well. On the days that I eat it, everyone and everything appears more interesting somehow.
I have several friends who do not like chocolate, and this I cannot understand. There must be some flaw in their taste buds. That is my only explanation. I don’t complain. These are the best kind of friends to go out to breakfast or dessert with. They may roll their eyes at my chocolate chip pancakes or my chocolate souffle, but they won’t ask for a taste. More for me. And that is always the way I like it.
P.S. I have not gone off my diet. A girl can dream, can’t she?
For more Theme Thursday posts go here: #mce_temp_url# (I don’t know what the heck is the matter with Word Press and why I can’t properly post a link anymore without speaking in code!)
We had recently been invited to attend the baptism of the baby of one of our closest friends in the Orthodox Church. Having been raised a Protestant, I had rarely set foot within an Orthodox Church, let alone attend a baptism. Throughout the traditional Orthodox liturgy, I found myself transfixed by the golden icons of a suffering Christ adorning the wall separating the nave from the Sanctuary, and the bejeweled Beautiful Gates leading to it. I couldn’t help but wonder why it is that humans have such a need to explain God and the way to the eternal, when, in my opinion, it’s really a matter of manifesting God’s love daily that determines our immortal soul’s residence.
By the way, I am not picking on any particular faith. Also, I find religious rituals to be beautiful and comforting, serving whatever purpose they were designed for. I just don’t believe that anyone’s got the grasp on God and Christ as they all seem to think they do.
When I go to my parents’ church, the choir’s singing brings me to tears without fail. As soon as they open their mouths in song, I get chills and heaven is within my reach. When the sermon starts, however, it is just a rehash of the things I have grown up hearing. The majority of it is ego stroking, pointless, repetition. My eyes glaze over and I find myself checking the time.
Now if this doesn’t depress everyone, I don’t know what will. This post was really supposed to be about my front door (that up there is not my front door), and not about my issues with organized religion. But I guess it had to be said, because lately I find so much hypocrisy when I open those front doors of a church. Any church. And I wish it weren’t so.
For more, and much happier, front door posts, visit Jane at #mce_temp_url# and check out her right side bar.
In an effort to lose ten pounds, and teach myself some discipline along the way, I have decided to go on a refined sugar and flour fast. Easier said than done, as I am the biggest sugar and flour addict I know. But summer is coming so putting it off is not an option any longer. And I have found it to be true that weight loss is 85% diet related. I will start tomorrow. I know it sounds like I’m putting it off, but I have a reason why. Today needs to be spent poring over my half dozen cookbooks (because I am not a genius in the kitchen I rely on cookbooks, and I really like those with pictures so I know that a semblance of the food pictured is expected), and planning every meal and snack. If I don’t have everything planned and within reach, I will panic and give in to the nearest brownie.
I have done this before and know that it will be difficult. The last time I did it, I felt such compassion for addicts of one substance or another and so much respect for the ones that kicked the habit and persevered. It isn’t easy. Sugar and flour withdrawals are nothing to sniff at.
Tomorrow evening I will be cursing all those female standards of beauty that we women fall for, while at the same time telling myself not to give in to my sugar deprived brain telling me that I’m fine the way I am. To help myself along, I should probably make fifty or so copies of one of my favorite pre-children photos and tape them throughout the kitchen, pantry and car. Maybe line my purse with a bunch of them as well.
As I am writing this, I am enjoying what will probably my last sugar laden sweet – an almond croissant dusted with powdered sugar from my favorite bakery – for the next two weeks. I am eating it as slowly as I can in order to prolong the pleasure. Should I spoil myself with such treats all day, as tomorrow will inevitably arrive with its new burden? Hmm… what a dilemma!
I first came across the corner view series through my Italian blog pal Francesca at #mce_temp_url#. I was so fascinated with her corner views and the ones of the other participants, that I asked to be put on the list too. Jane, the creator of the series and residing in beautiful Spain, kindly obliged. Visit Jane at #mce_temp_url# for more corner views. This week’s theme was chosen by Cate at #mce_temp_url#.
I was given this paperweight about twenty years ago by a boy that liked me, but one I wasn’t too fond of. His parents were friends with mine, and there had been some hope that the two of us would unite the families. There was nothing wrong with the boy other than that he talked a lot, and as I liked being the center of attention his constant jabbering turned me off. When he gave me the paperweight I told him I didn’t want it, and that I didn’t want to be anything other than friends. He insisted that I keep it, and so I did and gave it to my mom.
Whenever I visit her I see it in her bookcase, keeping company with my other discards, each with its own story to tell. Sometimes I look at them and wonder at the person I had been, and how easily a different choice might have propelled me on a different path. And I start panicking at the mere thought that I could have led a life totally absent of the love of my husband and my children.
(Every comment on this post is entered into the drawing for the giveaway specified in the previous post. The more one comments, the better chances one has to win. Good luck! Now go visit Jane and check out her sidebar for more corner views.)