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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Fever and Reminiscence

What a difference a couple of days makes! Look at my view from the deck this morning. One will note that the palm fronds are not a blur because they are not snapping like bullwhips in the wind. Oh, to be sure, we are not out of the woods yet. Tomorrow promises to be as schizophrenic as Wednesday. But Sunday we spring forward to Daylight Savings Time and when I stepped out onto the deck to snap that picture, the sun felt warm on my shoulders.

I read the most informative springtime post this morning that truly put some things into perspective for me. It helped curb some angst and unease. The post features lovely photos of calla lilies, and some of the commenters [poetic sorts and flower lovers, all] wrote that they didn't know those blooms could be found in particular colors. Perhaps pushed on by a large dose of spring fever, I drifted into reverie.

My mother went to high school with a friend named Barbara. Barbara was an only child and my mother loved going to her quiet, orderly home. Barbara loved visiting in my mother's home with all the rollicking, frolicking redheaded Irish Americans who are my ancestors. When my parents "ran off" to get married, Barbara went along as my mother's maid of honor. She did not have children until much later in her life than my mother had me, so for much of my early life, I was "Barbara's girl". Her family remained involved with ours for many, many years. The first wedding gift Ex and I received was from Barbara's elderly parents.

Barbara married Jack, a policeman, and began an early married life of leisure. She was more adventuresome and worldly than my mother, driving her own car to meet girlfriends for lunch, joining the garden club, taking classes, decorating her home beautifully. Barbara was big copy in our home! We thought she was wonderful in every way.

Easter was approaching when Barbara called to say, "Let's do a project!" It was arranged that she would drive to our home on a weekday afternoon, bringing all the supplies needed for said project and we'd all participate, even young Leslie. I remember being excited and intrigued, for my mother did not arrange projects. Nor Granny, nor anyone else I knew. I'd probably never heard the word spoken. But my mother smiled and bustled around and made potato salad for our lunch, so I knew this project was a good thing and not a bad one.

Barbara arrived with armloads - literally - of calla lilies of the commonest variety, the white with the yellow tongue. She brought sandpaper and bags of cotton balls and buckets of colored chalk sticks of the sort little girls use to draw hopscotch grids . And although it has been 53 springs since, I have never forgotten the afternoon spent on that project. Barbara had taken a class where she learned how to do this activity. One used the sandpaper to reduce the chalk to powder. A cotton ball was dipped into the powder and then used to sweep color onto the white lily petals. We made pink lilies and red, blue and lavender. On some petals we made a marbled effect, using a bit of color offset by the flower's own white. My father is a bit clever, a bit different. When he arrived home, the rainbow lily was invented, and we all bowed to his creativity.

It came time for Barbara to go home and make dinner for Jack. She left us with the lion's share of the colored lilies so we could share with Granny and put some on the altar at Mass for Easter. Our small home was filled with the fragrance of lilies (yes, I know some people find that cloying, but I love it). Even I, a young child, could see that the wool rug was covered with chalk dust and I looked like I had just emerged from a colored chalk mine. But this was an enchanted spring because my mother did not have a nervous breakdown over the mess. My father pitched in to help clean it up. I was pitched into the bathtub, and this remains a memory of a very special time to me. I have continued a lifetime of projects, perhaps stemming from that spring afternoon in 1956.

In my ears right now: Some music from the year I was 15. It was a joyous and devastating year and soon I shall be writing about it. This ditty did not age well, but I've never forgotten it.

Something that charmed me: Bloomsbury and Benson charm me this morning. They converse with the outside birds so loudly, I can barely think.


  1. i love this, the memory, the project, the result. good memories are to be cherished, to buttress us against the times when the not-so-good ones attempt to overwhelm.
    (doesn't hurt that my current flower fave plays a supporting role, either!)

  2. You didn't say whether you're still in touch with Barbara or her family.

    People didn't finally get together, but I like the song anyway. Groovy.

    WV disho: The Marx Brother who spent most of his time in the kitchen.

  3. @ SOMH ~ Yes, this is a nice one. I have a wealth of memories where she DID have the nervous breakdown and he DIDN'T help tidy up and the discord was palpable. So the random sweet ones are lovely to trot out.

  4. @ Kirk ~ Yes, the families are still generally in touch. None of us lives very close to one another any more, but certainly holiday cards are exchanged and important events are shared.

    Do you know that even though that was my era, I never once said "groovy" that I didn't blush. That was a lame word! To my knowledge, Friend & Lover were never again heard from after that LP was released, although some one may be able to correct me about that.

    You're sharp on the WV today!

  5. "stemming from that spring"...are you conscious of your great word choices as you make them?

    Lovely memories - something really key about the natural and the artificiality of the colour here but I can't work it out - my brain's too fried....better just kept as a lovely memory anyhow...too many things get spoilt by over analysing them and milking them for stuff that probably isn't even there anyway....

    ...this is touching and sweet as it is...I love the smell of lily flowers too...to the point where I get headache sniffing it up in greedy nosefulls!

  6. @ Rachel ~ It's good to see you here! You've been quiet in the blogoshpere.

    I would say that, yes, my use of most words is purposeful, meaning I know what I want to say and how I want to say it. Thank you for your kind comment.

    This is one of the sweet memories. I have a collection of both sweet ones and bitter (just like everyone else - I'm not special for that), and I like to pull the nice ones out every now and then, to give them a rub.

  7. The loveliest of memories! I can't even conjure up a relative who was willing to bring a project over to delight and entertain. I wonder if she had a notion of how much this sort of thing was needed by a little girl.

  8. @ Kass ~ Aw, Girlfriend, you caught the unspoken thing. Looking back across the decades, I'd have to say that Barbara looked out not only for "her" little girl, but also for her best friend whom she had to have known was terribly troubled. Ironically, 25 years later, Barbara had big and serious trouble (legally and socially marginal)in her life and my mother censured her.

  9. Oh, man, Les, I just read your last comment. Do you have any idea how provocative that final sentence is?

  10. @ Kirk ~ I believe I do, my friend, but please tell me what the sentence does to you.

  11. It's always this way. The big elaborate things aren't what stays with us. It's always the little things. I remember weaving colored yarn through an empty cherry tomato pint in order to make a mini Easter basket. How I loved that little basket. I was probably 7 or 8.

    Thanks for the memory, Limes!

  12. @ Erin ~ You're right, Erin. And I already get feedback from my daughter - she's 20 - about those important, simple things. Some of them I provided unthinkingly - it wasn't a big plot to "do this with the kid so I'll go to heaven". It was given naturally and it has stuck with her.

  13. Unless you want to contradict me, "socially marginal" and "censure" makes me think your mother might be a fair-weather friend.

    You've been critical of your mother in the past, so I feel somewhat safe saying that.

  14. @ Kirk ~ OK, we're on the same page. Yes, that is what I am saying about her, while trying not to put it in "this woman is a terrible person" or "what a nasty woman" terms. She was and is a deeply troubled human being who hasn't always given as good as she gets. I'm not sure she realizes this about herself, by the way. And I'm certain she wouldn't agree with my assessment.

    And for the record, to all the readers, we haven't begun to touch on my own personal shortcomings. One shouldn't think I will be critical of others and fail to take an unflinching inventory of myself.

  15. Well, thank you for indulging my curiosity. Normally, I don't ask personal questions like that.

    WV inskite: Don't fly it unless you have a very high ceiling.

  16. @ Kirk ~ Good WV!

    It's OK to ask questions that occur to you. If I were unwilling to talk about something, I wouldn't write about it. I consider every word I put up, and what it might bring me to deal with. I also have the option to say, "I'll answer your question, but privately in e-mail." I'm OK with the comment I put up to Kass and with you asking about it.