Archive for February, 2015

Attics and Birdcalls

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Most of us have taken down the holiday decorations by now, packed them up in their crates and hauled them up to the attic until next year. The attics, home to all kinds of bits and pieces of the past are now closed up again, that ladder we keep meaning to fix is stowed until the idea of repair comes to us next year again.

Attics are places of discovery, from “who put my ________ up here?” to the find we hope lands us on the antique roadshow. But the attic isn’t just a place for old things, its the place where we store some of our maybe more ordinary memories. The toys, the clothes (that will fit again one day) the furniture from when our children were our babies… its up there, over our heads, kind of like a cartoon bubble.

I wonder if inside of us we carry those ordinary memories too?

The one who holds my heart and I went to see “Guys and Dolls” the other night. It was a touring production cast, and they were very good, not like hearing Frank Sinatra sing “Luck be a Lady” but very good.

I found myself having flashbacks during the performance, kind of seeing the album cover but not, kind of seeing the old RCA record player on its wobbly legs, and remembering the plastic thing we’d put on the spindle to stack 45’s on, it was red and black I think. Mom would play records while we cleaned and did our chores. I remember the album cover from West Side Story, South Pacific, and How the West was Won. She’d put on music as we swept and vacuumed and mopped. I remember the six of us trying to sing songs from the Sound of Music, my memory is that we weren’t that good but I can see from Mom’s perspective that any alternative to six kids tearing through the house in a running dart gun battle would be a moment of peace.

During the flashback I missed Mom. Her birthday is coming up and though the memories of her last years weren’t wonderful, I was kind of remembering the person she was before the cancer. Trauma changes us I think. Mom was never the same. I remember, in her last years how hard she was on my sisters. I never understood that and want to believe it was the COPD finally catching up to her. Maybe she saw her end ahead of her and was mad about it, maybe she had hoped life would have been different, its hard to say, she didn’t talk about it.

I had mentioned to someone that one trick to life is not expecting much, that way you’d never be disappointed and when things went well you’d be happily surprised. It kind of works, sometimes.

The flashbacks to Mom and her music left me a little sad, not so much missing the Mom in her last years as the Mom in my early years, but people change, nothing can stay the same. Anyway, about the attic within us…if we carry around the memories of happy pasts, can we bring them forward to make a happier present without being nostalgic? I think so.

I was in a difficult meeting yesterday, our Dean did some things that hurt the community of our department deeply. Everyone’s washed their hands of it at this point and he seemed to have no appreciation of the mourning that was happening…or his role in making it happen. The runup to the meeting kind of darkened the previous week, and the meeting lived up to that, no rays of sunshine or glimmers of hope where offered. Just more accountability, more blame, and more expressions of surprise that there were trust issues between the parties involved…. Anyway…thats what brings me to the birdcalls.

The one who holds my heart is down south for a few days helping some friends and after a restless night, (missing my honey) I walked out the door into the Texas winter sunshine, and unlike just a few days earlier, the air was filled with birdcalls. Like hearing the music from Guys and Dolls and I was taken back to warm summer mornings, laying on my back in the grass (not in Texas!) and closing my eyes trying to locate the bird sounds, which tree, which compass bearing, which birds were singing, which were responding… A beautiful morning connecting the growing up Mom with the nice morning here.

The day seems brighter now, I’m heading off to the classroom, the best part of being in the university, to talk about the intricacies of masonry construction!

Hope you all have a chance to hear the birds, or revel in the depths and beauty of the snow (remember tubing down lee street?)

Take care, drag some good stuff out of your attic every now and then, it might change your day for the better!

Be good to each other!
Hug your Valentine this week!