Month: October 2015
I was in third grade. The term they used was, “legally blind.” All I knew was, I couldn’t see the blackboard. Sister Damien got fed up with me needing to come stand up close to it, so she called my mother. Mother took me to the eye doctor in the Utica Square Doctor’s Building. We picked out burgundy frames with little specks of glitter in them. And then …
I remember the moment I put those glasses on.
Wait … was this what other people’s normal was? I could see every tree leaf! I could read the street signs, I could even read the numbers on Mrs. Temples’ front porch. In an instant, my eight year old life took on a whole new meaning. My heart was pounding like a bass drum.
For the first couple of weeks, through those glasses I read everything, everywhere, out loud.
“T G & Y. C. R. Anthony’s. Bekins, we are careful, quick and kind. Meadow Gold Milk, Ice Cream, Beatrice Foods Co. You can trust your car to the man who wears the star; the big red Texaco star. Desert Hills Motel, Guest Laundry, No Pets.” I could read it all.
Finally my Dad hollered into the back seat for me to shut up he was driving. Then he cranked up Frankie Lane on the radio singing Moonlight Gambler.
I looked out the window and whispered to myself,
“Jim’s Coney Island.” I had to, because I could read it.
artwork copyright cece dubois, 2012, all rights reserved. http://www.cecedubois.com
“Those chairs are upsy down.” His shrill young voice echoed across the water, hovered in the air, trailed the heron down river.
I opened one eye to try and locate him. His red hat bobbed in the tall grass and disappeared. I sighed and settled back against the Adirondack.
“Whatever,” I murmured to no one. The sun was hot and high, the locust buzz was steady. I felt a bead of sweat let go and travel slowly down the center, between my bosoms. My fingernail played with the peeling paint on the arm of the chair.
“UPSY!” he crowed. I raised my head, squinted both eyes open.
“YOU! You’re upsydown!” Oh, for god’s sake. I settled back.
“Jasper, STOP. I’m tryin’ to relax.”
“Well, you’re relaxin’ but…” he trailed off. I heard him laugh, then saw him jump in the water, watched him stream across like an alligator, right before the chomp and roll. Just as I started to shut my eyes, his head popped up near my feet, gasping for air.
“You’re upsy down!” I raised my head and looked at him, then noticed something floating down stream.
“There goes your hat.”
He let out a shriek and started paddling madly toward it. He caught up to it, wrestled it for show, poured out the water, and slapped it on his head. I closed my eyes, and listened to the splashing rhythm as he slowly made his way back to shore.
He climbed out, dripping, and slopped his way up to me.
“Did you know?”
“That you’re upsy down.”
I sat upright and stared at him.
“For god’s sake, Jasper, what in hell are you talkin’ about?”
He shrugged his tan shoulders, turned and walked over to the water’s edge. He peered at his reflection.
“Well,” he said, “from here you can’t tell. But from over there,” he pointed a bony finger to the far shore. “Everything is upsy down.”
He looked back at me and grinned.
“In the water.”
photo credit: http://www.catherineandersonstudio.com
I read a quote today from Jamie Lee Curtis. She was answering a question about marriage. She and husband Christopher Guest have been married over 30 years which in this day and time is some sort of record. In Hollywood it’s such a rarity that I guess a couple of that standing could pretty much sit in their lawn chairs and charge admission.
But when she was asked about their “secret” to marital success, she answered in three words: “Don’t get divorced.”
Later in the discussion, Jamie Lee said she was tempted to write a book about marriage and call it, “Don’t Leave.”
I rolled that around in my head for a couple of hours. I’ve been divorced for 23 years – almost as long as I was married. I’ve slugged through nearly a quarter century by myself. I take out the garbage, I roll out the trash cans, and I roll them back. I pump my gas. I put oil in my car. I paint my shutters, and walls, and trim, and doors. I shove my furniture around. I cut shelves, and I install them. I hang pictures, and brackets, and hooks, and blinds, and window treatments. I found a scrubby thing with a handle so that I can wash my own back. And at the end of the day, I climb into the bed and sleep with my arm by my side.
And so, okay, I was thinking about Jamie Lee and Christopher, and thinking that building a marriage is sort of like building a house. You get together, and you talk a lot, sharing dreams about that house. You each have some ideas in your head you think are the best, and so together you bring a bunch of lumber, a couple of great hammers, a saw, and you start.
My Daddy was a builder. He was a master builder. And my Granddad was, too. They made building beautiful things look easy. They measured, and carefully considered the straightness of each board. They drew out, with exact precision, what the plan would be. Every fraction was checked and accounted for. Blueprints.
They never got ahead of themselves. First things first. I used to watch my Daddy frame in a wall: he’d use his carpenter’s square, his level, and he’d be certain the wall was framed straight and plumb. Then he and my Granddad would lift it up off the ground, and settle it into place.
It was all slow and painstaking, sometimes I watched and thought to myself, What difference does that make? That quarter of an inch? But it did, indeed, make a difference. Letting a tiny fraction slide on the front end, can send you off a cliff at the other.
So their patience always paid off. Eventually, one step at a time, something beautiful was constructed. And each creation has endured through the decades.
So going back to Jamie Lee and Christopher I’m guessing they, like anyone else, have had their rough spots; their places where the measurement was off by a quarter of an inch, maybe more. But rather than throw in the hammer, they corrected and carried on. That’s what’s required anytime we’re building a thing of beauty. Part of the beauty in that thing is the commitment to it. The willingness, the steadfastness, the refusal to cut and run when things aren’t quit lining up straight and plumb.
Maybe the marital ceremony should start to include a small stone, or relic each participant hands the other. On these are inscribed the words:”Don’t Leave.” Because, in the end, that’s what we’re saying after all.