It’s seven in the morning in west Michigan, but because of daylight savings time, it feels like the middle of the night. Someone posted a funny saying on Facebook yesterday depicting a storybook Indian wearing a full head dress who says, and I am probably getting the quote wrong, ‘Only the government could think you can cut a foot off of one end of a blanket and sew it on to the other side and get a longer blanket.’ True. Back in the olden days, a phrase I use almost constantly now, when I worked in the OR, daylight savings time served a purpose because after having to be at work in a space with no windows for eight hours, I could get home in the evening and have day left. Now that we eat dinner at four o’clock in the afternoon, it makes the time until bed seem awfully long.
The book I am currently working on, The Greeks of Beaubien Street is about a Greek family who live in an apartment above their grocery store. All the children are grown , most with kids and grandkids and are going through adult situational crisis. I remember that silly term from nursing school mental health classes. What does it mean? Losing a job, getting divorced, spouse dying, kids hating you, illness, betrayal; the list is endless. So I interpret it as meaning living. If you are living, and not a TV evangelist, you have trouble somewhere in your life. It might be as simple as your wonderful homestead slowly becoming surrounded by people who don’t care about the environment the same way you do, or losing touch with someone who formerly meant the world to you. Many of us have had that dilemma; you can feel an old friendship slipping away through a change of lifestyle or for an unknown reason, and are powerless to do anything about it. I once had a beloved friend who stopped calling when she married a man with four children from another marriage. I did what I could to facilitate a relationship with her; had them for dinner, drove the hour to her house as often as I could, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. Then the coup de grace; her car was parked on my street one summer day and I was stymied until I realized she was at a neighborhood Bible Study that I wasn’t invited to. She had driven an hour and didn’t stop in to say hello. I finally got it through my thick skull that it wasn’t the marriage or the kids or the distance that was causing us to drift apart. It was me. She didn’t want to know me anymore. Once I accepted it, it took about twenty years to recover from. When we moved from New Jersey to Michigan I found a box of her belongings that must have been left behind when she lived with me briefly during a rough time in her life. I debated for a year about trying to get in touch; I’d heard they had moved to Maine. And in a moment of, I don’t know what, maybe glee, or revenge, I gave the box to the Goodwill. It felt so delicious.
So to get back to my story, one of the wives goes on a cleaning rampage and discovers boxes her husband stashed in a storage area under the eaves in his office. Here’s the excerpt.
She [Paula] came across a box of Nick’s memorabilia that his mother had assembled for him over the years, and when he finally got his own place, she [Eleni] felt safe handing it over to him. The words ‘Nickie’s Treasures’ written in her careful hand across the top flap, the box didn’t look like he had opened it again . Paula rummaged through it and saw that it was nothing more than some old schoolwork papers, drawings he had done as a small child, awards he had received for good behavior, and a few silly mementos. Basically, it was a box of junk only a mother would care about. When she couldn’t throw it away, she left it to the son’s wife to do so. Paula wondered if Liz and Anna had similar boxes in their houses. She shook her head in disgust; her mother-in-law was a peasant.
I don’t know what it was about this scene, but I started to cry as I was writing it. The process of going through my children’s mementos when we moved was difficult because the truth is, you can’t keep everything. Having to throw away their school work was so difficult, but neither of them wanted it, and I had saved boxes and boxes. My husband, Jim packed a box for Andy with movies he ‘d made as a teenager, and few collectible toys we kept and shipped it to him. For the rest of the stuff, I bought large, clear Rubbermaid containers with tight fitting lids and as I sorted through old photos and mementos, I made each kid their own box. I decided to keep them here and when I die, the kids can retrieve their boxes of mementos.
The process of aging is intense. I am aware of the changes I”m going through because of the pain, and the mortification of seeing my face in my cell phone when my grandchild and I do Face Time. Oh my God, who is that sagging, asymmetrical, bad dye job hag looking back at me? The fact that the lighting makes me look slightly blue doesn’t help. I have to make sure my hair and make-up are done early every day just in case Jen calls, and now my friend Betty calls me, too and I never know if she has one of her many man-friends looking over her shoulder to see the cool gadget. My new computer has a camera in it. If I ever get used to the key board, I will tape a piece of cardboard over it, just in case.