Tuesday, January 31, 2006

SPT : Personal History #3

My brother Cabel was born the summer that I turned six. The day ranks up there, along with my wedding day and the births of my children, as one of the top five best days of my life. Because even though we had (and still do!) fantastic, loving, fun, creative, involved and inspiring parents, that boy was mine...all mine. I was ready, willing and able to be his mom too.

My grandparents were babysitting me when my mom gave birth. I remember playing a board game with my grandmother in the living room as the phone rang. We went running down the hall to hear the news as my grandfather answered the phone in his office (where I sit right now). I rounded the corner in time to see his beaming face exclaiming with delight, "It's a boy!" I couldn't have been happier and immediately began counting the minutes until I could hold Cabel Maxfield in my arms.

My dad took me to Sears and bought me a new outfit for our trip to the hospital. A Scotch plaid jumper with tights and shiny shoes. It felt so foreign and exciting to be shopping only with my dad, for such an important costume. How much more grown up could I be? My ego was dashed mere hours later when, in 1976 hospital fashion, I wasn't even allowed onto the maternity floor. So I was carefully positioned on the padded bench outside of the elevator doors with instructions to wait for my parents and the baby. The baby! Minutes were hours. Each time the elevator doors opened I stood, only to be greeted by masses of unfamiliar faces. Sitting, standing, sitting, standing. Finally among the strangers emerged my lovely parents and the sweetest bundle of baby I had ever seen. The reward for my patience was the honor of holding him, on my lap, for the entire car ride home. Not until I was a mother myself did I realize what a huge leap of faith that had been, even in a world without infant carriers and child restraints.

We've always been friends, always been close, even through the bouts of normal sibling rivalry that came with age. There were the plays I concocted in which I coerced him to act, my ankles he grabbed from the darkness under the bed, the diary he pried open and read unbeknownst to me. We spent an entire summer filming a stop-action Lego movie and many, many times he made me laugh so hard that whatever I was drinking flew out of my nose, chocolate milkshake being by far the most painful. And through it all I've always been bursting with pride for him, as beaming as our own parents over his successes and accomplishments. He'll be 30 this summer, hard to believe. He's become an amazing grown-up guy: smart, musical, interesting, funny, kind, passionate about life and living it joyfully. I just can't help myself, I'm as enchanted with Cabel as I was staring at his tiny fingers through the turns and stoplights of that first car ride home.

Monday, January 30, 2006

On My Nightstand

My goodness. After talking it up so heroically here like I was some kind of fantastic reading machine, I've finally read Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. Why did it take me so long? I'm shamed to say it's not because I've been reading other great books, but simply that life got in the way for a while. I find it so hard to keep all of the interests, obsessions, and duties juggling successfully without letting something drop for a bit. So there you have it.

At any rate, once I got started I could hardly stop. I had been doing a lot of reading, historical fiction mostly, about Victorian London when I picked up this book way back in the summer. Love the time frame, love the location. And I've always been a big fan of the coming-of-age genre. Tipping the Velvet combines each of those things I love, with a twist. It's about Nancy Astley, a girl from a seaside oyster-town who forms a friendship and then falls in love with a music hall "masher." Miss Kitty Butler is a male-impersonator, a pretty boy in elegant clothes who sings and charms each music hall audience, a cross-dressing curiosity in 1880's England. The story follows Nancy with a strong narrative voice as she makes her way through London's music halls, high society, the streets of Piccadilly and the London slums. As her story unravels, spiraling downward at each turn, Nancy discovers the complexities of the human condition. She ultimately gains a true sense of herself, her sexuality and her place as a lesbian in the world around her.

Tipping the Velvet is such a fantastic read that I just bought Sarah Waters Fingersmith, but I probably won't get back to you on that one until Halloween. In the meantime I'll be checking out the BBC's version, now out on DVD.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Happy Birthday Max!

It's hard to believe that five years ago, in the teeming metropolis of Los Angeles, our dear sweet Max was born. Jack was a mere 21-months-old, the age little Zöe is today, when we brought Max home from Cedars-Sinai. He was able only to speak in sounds and noises reminiscent of Gerald McBoing-Boing. Saying, "I'm so happy to have a baby brother!" was most certainly out of the question, but he was able to muster an enthusiastic "MA!" Thankfully Max was a dream baby; calm, content and perfect in every way. He was happy to be held, happy to lay in his basinet, happy to sit in his bouncy chair. He would nurse at night and go right back to sleep all by himself. It was truly a wonder to behold. With an energetic almost-two-year-old nipping at my heels I considered myself supremely lucky.

We lived in a cool, enormous, Spanish-style old Hollywood kind of apartment right near the intersection of Wilshire and Fairfax.
The LA County Museum of Art was pretty much across the street and adjacent to that were the La Brea Tar Pits. The famous Farmer's Market was only a short walk away. We busied ourselves at the park, the Market and the mall (Beverly Center), and made weekend day trips to Manhattan Beach, Griffith Park, and Pasadena. It was fun!

Well within the first year of Max's life it became clear to us that although they were brothers, Jack and Max were as different as peanut butter and jelly. While Jack was a boy's boy, busying himself with construction trucks and Brio trains, Max would spend hours looking at books, playing with stuffed aimals, and studying the faces of people around him. He was always happy and easy and almost eerily good natured, full of love and hugs and snuggles. And despite their differences, the boys developed a fast friendship which seems only to solidify and strengthen with each passing year. They have no concept of what life would be like without the other, and they talk a lot about how lucky they are. Max said yesterday, "Having a brother is like a built-in friend." I didn't bother asking him about the little sister...

Max continues to display all of those fabulous character traits we came to love in his infancy. He is affectionate, passionate, dramatic, and wears his heart gigantically on his sleeve for the world to see. He loves slapstick, board games, video games, and anything cute, silly or funny. And he is complicated. Boy, is he complicated. His reactions to people and situations are forever a surprise to me, as much perhaps as they are to him. His exclusive friendship contract with the many girls in his life has just added a clause to include a few boys. It seems Max may be exploring his tougher side for now. No matter. He is a delight. He is my all-around buddy, my partner in crime, my silly giggling roll-around-on-the-floor kind of boy. And he's turning five! Happy Birthday, dear Max, Happy Birthday to you...cha-cha-cha!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Self Portrait Tuesday: Personal History #2

After my grandmother passed away last Spring, my mom spent weeks going through the house: sorting, organizing, putting things in order. As you can imagine it was a gigantic task and each day brought small discoveries which filled her with every conceivable emotion. One morning she was working in my grandparents' bedroom and inside one of the dresser drawers she found this little hinged wooden box, a 2 inch cube, decoratively carved and delicately painted. Inside was this photograph, a perfect fit nuzzled within the box's golden interior. My reaction upon receiving this surely must have mirrored my mother's upon finding it. Tears flowed freely as I cast my eyes on this secret treasure, long forgotten inside its hiding place, carefully pressed there long ago by the woman I so achingly miss.

I don't remember the exact taking of this photo, but I remember many days that it could have been. We'd taken the bus downtown (my mom, grandma and I), browsed around some stores, stopped for ice cream at the mezzanine of Lippman's department store, and headed across the street to Woolworth's for some little trinket for me. There we stepped into the photo booth and the moment was frozen, recorded forever in black and white. I usually took pictures with my mom or dad, or later with my brother, or much later with my friends. I didn't know I ever took one with her. I don't know what happened to the rest of the series. We probably divided them up and I used tape to stick them to my mirror, or the wall next to my bed. But what I like best about this one is the way her whole beautiful face smiles. On the outside she could be very shy, and didn't really like having her picture taken. In most of our family photos she's looking to the side or off into the distance, although always with a smile. But this is the real her. This is exactly the face I see in my minds eye when I think of her. The most beautiful, loving, smiling, laughing, sparkling, elegant, graceful face. And I really, really miss it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Good Day Sunshine

I guess it's been raining a lot around here. Today we were driving in the car and the sun, in all it's brilliant glory, made a full appearance from behind some very grey storm clouds. I practically caused a collision. "Zöe!" I cried, "Look! It's the sunshine! Isn't it beautiful? Doesn't it feel warm and nice on your face?" In the rearview mirror I watched her look quizzically out the window, catch a golden beam of light on her face, flinch, and squeeze her eyes shut. She buried her face in the side of her carseat and began to cry, like a vampire shriveling from the first rays of the sunrise, "Oh...OW!! Eyes! OW! Eyes! Eyes! Eyes! No!" Has it really been that long?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Self Portrait Tuesday: Personal History

I've been wanting to join this flickr group for a while now, and finally got around to figuring the whole thing out. And over the weekend we purchased a scanner/printer/copier all-in-one, so it makes it possible to scan some photos that have been on my list to write about anyway!

This photograph was taken in the summer of 1975, outside of my cousin Jubal's house (that's him on the horse with me) in NE Portland, very close to where we live now. There was a man who roamed the neighborhood with his pony "Trooper," charging a small amount for children to have their picture taken on horseback with all of his cowboy accoutrements. We were at home that day when my Aunt Mary called to tell us "the pony guy" was in the neighborhood. We made it over just in time for some pictures, and according to my folks it was the last summer the pony guy came around, so we always felt really lucky for having the experience. I don't really remember the whole thing, but I love this picture because it speaks to me of everything wonderful in my childhood. A warm sunny day in short sleeves, my best wonderful boy at my side, our parents in the periphery smiling, laughing, and an endless sidewalk to run and chase and play.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Corners of My Home

I love the new project started by Soulemama in which folks are sharing whatever corners, items, objects, walls, or rooms inspire them in their homes. You can check out other peoples' photos here.

Here's our office! I've been on a mission this week to get our little office up, organized and running. This view through the doorway is what I see when I'm in the kitchen, looking down the hallway. It's been such a great excuse to fuel my office supply habit: new desk lamp, letter holder, bulletin boards, pushpins, boxes from the Container Store, a wastebasket, paper shredder. Whoopee! On the desk you can see my wonderful Christmas gift from Eric...a new iMac!

I still have one more shelf to assemble as well as a file cabinet. And of course at some point the walls will be painted as well. I'm thinking a nice steel blue. What you see here are walls stripped of the crazy brown/gold wagon-wheel wall paper of the 1960's. Fun!

How on earth did I survive without all of these accessories? Actually that's a very good question. Right before we moved I found Max's birth certificate stuffed inside an old Trader Joe's bag with some completely random junk in the basement! Our family will clearly benefit from me getting my organizational act together.

The really fun part is that my desk sits in exactly the same location where my grandfather's desk sat so many years ago, looking out the doorway into the goings-on of the kitchen. I used to sit here as a kid and play a made-up game dubbed "Mrs. Schultz" with my brother and cousins. I'd wear my grandmothers big black-rimmed glasses (think Harry Potter), through which I could barely see, and sit at my grandfather's desk barking orders to all of my office underlings. Gee, I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Something New

It's funny how a small change, something new, can produce a complete attitude adjustment.

These first few days of 2006 have been really cranky for me. I want all of the Christmas decorations to put themselves away. Guess what? Christmas is over! Our tree is still in the living room, the stockings are still hanging from their corners of the mantle, my Snow Village continues to evoke holiday cheer from small, now-darkened windows. Eric has yet to dismantle his ginormous inflatable, light-up waving Santa who stands on the front lawn in all of his jolly glory. On the way back from school today I overheard a mom say to her daughters, "Isn't Santa supposed to be back in the North Pole by now?" Yes! He is! Thanks for pointing that out!

Apparently taking down all of this Christmas stuff is something I'm supposed to do. Why can't I ever remember that when I'm putting it up? Oh well, how quickly we fall into the next trap. The thing that got me moving yesterday, the thing that got me to take down and throw out all of the crunchy once-fresh garland from the banister and elsewhere, was the thought of Valentine's Day. I'm such a sucker for a new decorating task! Although I feel I must explain that Valentine's Day has always been my favorite. It's not just about an expression of love to my one and only, but to my entire circle of family and friends. And even better than that is an infusion of some glorious, glittery red, purple, pink, and orange in the middle of a gloomy, rainy winter. Bring it on!

But before I could face all of that Christmas deconstruction, I did something easier and made my blog blue. Voila! Mood lifted! Happy New Year! Why can't it always be that easy?