I went back in time, through many dozens of posts, after being alerted that one of a post’s links no longer worked. In repairing the link by finding another iteration of the same late-in-life Kurt Vonnegut interview, I could not help but re-read the entire interview.
What can I say? I like to read. Especially when drudgery beckons.
Strangely enough–given a much more recent post–I realized Vonnegut had mentioned Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, and how it “is one of his best and most realistic comedies, but there are some interesting tragic elements.”
The nest on Jim’s twig wreath, just outside my window, is gathering more cornflower blue denizens. The parents are on high alert: one frequently mans the nearby pathway against intrusion, while one sits on the nest and swoops violently upwards if someone dares open the forest-green door to conduct human business.
In Gathering Blue, the young heroine has a magical artistic gift: her hands infuse colors into dye, which she spins into threads which memorialize a story through uncannily beautiful embroidery.
There is a vast difference between the narcissistic “That could have been me” and the empathetic “That could be us.” It is not a mere matter of tense.
In law school, rows of seats were tiered like an upside-down wedding cake. By the middle rows, one had lithely to step around quite a few students to get to most seats. During winter, when wan students were thickened by down coats and armored with backpacks bulging with dense hardcover textbooks, this required particular finesse.
One morning, the unforgettable E. (she who remarked upon my engagement ring by saying “It’s so . . . . small.”) was sitting a few seats away from me in such a row when another student wended his way along, stumbled, and pitched a cup of hot coffee on the woman sitting on my other side. Most of us jumped up to try to wipe away the scorching liquid and see if she had been burned.
While we all patted away at the coffee-drenched student and her belongings, E. announced, very loudly, and in a dissonant and peculiar tone of personal affront, “That could have been me!”
I don’t know how many commencements I’ve attended, but I remember what the speaker at my husband’s medical school graduation told the crowd of new interns. He quoted the instructions on a mayonnaise jar: “Keep cool. Do not freeze.”
That’s really not bad advice.
Within the catalogue of my parenting deficiencies without my husband’s physical presence, I cannot claim consistently to have kept cool, but at least I have not frozen for long.
I simply never imagined being the only parent. It was outside what my mind could envision until the darkness that crashed down in that drawn-out moment when my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Last spring on Mother’s Day I was very fresh to the world of involuntarily single parenting. Today it remains overwhelming to realize that everything ultimately falls upon me; my wise husband is not there to give advice and be a sounding board in my or our children’s crises–not even to send me out of the room to regroup when he saw a warning salvo signalling one of those blitzkrieg-like escalations between mothers and teenage daughters. Jim possessed no temper. Continue reading “Life Lessons From a Mayonnaise Jar”