Tag Archives: love

Love Dares You to Care

This post has been rattling around in my head for over a week now: a little bit of Freddie Mercury, a dash of David Bowie, Michael Brown, Alexander the Great. I couldn’t get my head around it until, just like when I was a kid, Mr. Rogers helped me understand.

We’re big Queen fans in this house (and queen fans, in general, but that’s on a case-by-case basis). I wish I could have seen Queen play a live show–Freddie Mercury commanded arenas with his electric stage presence and four octave voice. A force of nature, he died from complications of AIDS in 1991. He died one day after telling the world that he had the disease.

Queen-Freddie-Mercury

I know you’ve heard “Under Pressure”…right? It’s been called the greatest bass line in rock and roll history (and this is the part where we spit on the ground and curse the name of Vanilla Ass for sampling it and not giving songwriting credit until he got sued, sued baby).

Anywho…As G and I were clearing the table the other night, I played this video for him of the isolated vocal track of “Under Pressure.” Please take a moment to listen:

I’ve known this song for 30 years but hearing the simple power of their voices apart from the instruments knocked me back into my chair. I sat at the crumb-covered table and listened to the words like I was hearing them for the first time. That echoing call: “Why can’t we give love just one more chance?”

Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

I couldn’t help crying, for it had been less than 24 hours since the announcement that there would be no indictment in Ferguson. So many people, crushed by the pressure.

While the noodles boiled for dinner, I had been reading news reports. Vivi lay stretched across the top of the loveseat behind me with her book. She put her chin on my shoulder to look at the headline on my screen. “What’s rack-i-seem?” It took me a second to realize what she was sounding out–“racism.”

It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming, “Let me out!

“Well, race is the way people tend to be grouped by how we look, like the color of our skin. Racism is the idea that one color of skin is better than another. What do you think about that?”

She screwed up her face and shook her head. “Skin’s just skin.”

Oh, honey. True…but. But we’ve added so much to it over centuries and centuries.  Now there’s a Gordian knot of history to unravel.

Turned away from it all like a blind man
Sat on a fence but it don’t work
Keep coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn
Why, why, why?  Love

gordian_knot-260x238So slashed and torn. A Gordian knot is a metaphor for a problem that seems to have no solution, something so tightly entangled that we can’t even find the end to begin pulling the knot apart. It comes from an ancient Greek story of a cart tied by this complicated knot. Whoever could untie the knot would conquer the east. After struggling with the knot, Alexander grew tired of the delay, drew his sword and slashed the knot in two.

Is that what’s happening to our Gordian knot of racism?

Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?..

For days, I’ve felt helpless and sad. It’s such a huge problem. Now, #icantbreathe. We’re cracking. How do I explain rack-i-seem to my second grader? She’s lucky enough to be on the side that can choose to learn more. As my friend, Bryndis, put it a while back, whites can choose whether to learn the ways of other races, but people of color have to learn to navigate the white world in order to survive.

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance? I got some courage back today, thanks to Mr Rogers:

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Love. Struggle.

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves

Love dares you to care. How do we care for the people on the edge of the night? The people who are quietly lying down in the street, on bridges, in shopping malls–lying down to become visible. To insist upon being seen and heard. I can listen. I can see. I can add my voice.

Racism has to become OUR problem. Freddie Mercury died of AIDS back when most people thought AIDS was someone else’s problem. Thousands of people fought like hell, lay down in the street, to get America to notice AIDS. Like ebola or climate change or marriage equality–we won’t make any progress on these Gordian knots until we recognize that they aren’t just other people’s problems.

This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure

 

Sunday Sweetness–A Piece of Poppy

Do you have a cozy quilt that makes you feel safe?  Did you have a special “lovey” when you were a kid?  I have a tiny “piece of Poppy” that I carry with me everywhere because it reminds me that I am loved by a very generous boy who wanted me to feel better. Today’s story is called “Five Security Blankets.”  Click on one of the stars in this quilt to read it!

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Be Somebody

Encourage someone today.  Remind them of their potential.  Tell them something you appreciate about them.  Share a sincere compliment with a stranger.  Look at yourself in the mirror and remember that you are a somebody.  

Be somebody who makes everyone you meet feel like a somebody.

 

 

A Kiss, a Kiss, a Kiss

When I got home from Kroger at 6:30 p.m. with $243 worth of raspberries, swim diapers, tamales, kettle corn, limes, and middle-aged regrets, I tooted the horn twice so G would know to come help me unload the car.  He strutted out the kitchen door in his green fleece pajama pants.  The ones covered in 100 snarling/smiling faces of The Grinch.  Just Grinches and belly hair.  Go ahead–picture it.

I dare you.

It was at that moment that I realized I didn’t buy any wine.  Or razors.  Nevertheless, he leaned in the driver’s side door and I hit him with a kiss that threw us both for a little loop.  Not the peck on the cheek that goes along with “Have a good day, Sweetie.”  Not the smacker that says, “Thanks for taking out the trash!”  This was more of a “I remember why I liked you in the first place, back before we needed to buy swim diapers.”

The Kiss IV, Edvard Munch.  Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art .

The Kiss IV, Edvard Munch. Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art .

A Real Kiss.

I had been thinking about kisses all day, thanks to Facebook.  One of my first boyfriends was celebrating a birthday.  I went to his page to wish him well and one think led to another and pretty soon I had traveled back in time to a Homecoming dance from 30 years ago.  Remembering how new kissing was, how mysterious.  How many hours I had spent thinking about kissing and then the instant when I found myself actually doing it!  How delicious it felt to slide my hands around his neck for a slow song.  How intoxicating it felt to lean closer to whisper something to a boy who smelled like Polo cologne then find myself kissing him.   How young.  How new.  How marvelous.

So, yes, I spent my free time today Facebook stalking every boy I smooched back in the 80s, back before things got complicated.  Back when kissing wasn’t all tangled up with groceries and taking out the trash and belly hair.  When a kiss was still a kiss.

 

Holding Hands

 

A few weeks ago, in the flurry of prom snapshots on Facebook, I saw an image that took me right back to being young and aflutter.  In the photo, my friend’s daughter posed with her date.  Smiles and smiles and smiles.  Poses with their friends and with just the two of them.  They weren’t a “couple” couple, but not “just friends” either.  It was a date date.  And they were young and so so sparkly.

The picture that got to me was a candid snap of the crowd of kids.  The boy had taken the girl’s hand as they turned to cut a path through the crowd.  The look on her face, and the look on his face, even though they weren’t looking at each other–it was clear that holding hands was a big deal.  They both looked a secret kind of  happy, like maybe it was the first time they had held hands right there in front of everyone.  The energy that flowed through their hands made them one as they moved through the group.  The touching was something new, but the way it marked them apart as a pair was something new too.

When’s the last time you felt a secret kind of happy because you were holding someone’s hand?

Really.  Think about it.

Now that we’re Adults, most of us have moved on to more…expressive forms of touch.  Sure, G and I still hold hands when we’re out on a date, but most days we are holding the hands of those tiny people that we created (via the previously referenced “more expressive forms of touch”).  At this stage of life, we hold hands to keep people from darting into traffic, not to declare our coupledom to the wider world.

Richard and I used to joke about “who got to be on top” when we held hands.  I liked to be the hand on the bottom.  I liked the protected feel of my hand tucked into his.  Besides, I already had a good five inches on him in the height department, so I didn’t want it to look like I was dragging him down the street to a dentist appointment.  He liked being the bottom hand because he believed that it gave him more steering control–he swore this was a lesson he learned as a ski instructor.  So we joked for years about who got to be on top.

Anywho.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, high school….

Right in the middle of all this thinking about hand holding, I read a book that I cannot recommend highly enough–“Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell.  I give it five stars then I would color in two more stars with a Sharpie.  That Good.

If you lived in the 80’s, read this book.  If you ever felt like a misfit in high school, read this book.  If you ever got swept up in first love, read this book.  If you lived an absolute perfect life through your teen years, shut up because you’re lying then read this book.  If you know how to read, read this book.  As John Green, author of “The Fault In Our Stars,” (the other book that knocked me to my knees this year) said in his NYT review:  “Eleanor & Park” reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.

Eleanor and Park begin their courtship on the school bus.  It is a slow and furtive reel of comic books, mix tapes, snark, and sentiment.  It is sensuous in the truest sense of the word.  Rowell’s characters revel in the touch, smell, sight, and sound of each other.  And eventually, the taste–but there is so much that comes before that.  Remember the days before kissing and all that comes after kissing?  Remember leaning in to read something together just for the excuse of being that close?  Remember when it took weeks to work your way up to hand holding, and then only if no one was watching?  Remember?


great-quote-from-Eleanor-amp-Park-Rainbow-Rowell

 

 

Biscuits

 

Vivi and I were clowning around in the parking lot at Lowe’s the other day.  

“I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you more.” 

“I love you the most in the universe.”

“I love you all of that, plus one.”  

“I love you eleventy fifty zillion billion more much.”

“I love you all of that, plus one.”

“I love you more than mac and cheese.”

“I love you more than butter…but a little bit less than biscuits.”

A grandmother, loading flats of zinnias into her car, had been listening to us and smiling.  When she heard about the biscuits, she hooted with laughter.  She giggled, “Imma have to get that on a t-shirt.”   

  

biscuits

 

 

 

Two Convertibles, Some Azaleas, and a $3 Tiller

Friday morning, the strangest thing happened–I was early for work.  Significantly early.  I’m so used to chasing my tail in a rush that I decided to enjoy the 20 minutes of peace and sit in my car.  That lasted about three minutes.  As I stepped out of my SUV then paused to pick up the Diet Coke cans, peanut shells, unsigned permission slips, and My Little Ponys that came rolling out onto the pavement, Cindy pulled up in a white BMW convertible.

Y’all.  Her car is so CLEAN.  I peaked inside and the only thing on the passenger’s side was a little net with a nicely folded shopping bag tucked into it.  Of course, the car is also so small that she had to pop the trunk to get her book out.

I blurted, “I can’t wait to have a tiny car that only has room for ME!”

She said, “Well, when my son turned 16, I gave HIM the minivan and bought myself a convertible.”  Awesome.  And so much easier on the insurance budget.

Drooling over Cindy’s tiny white convertible took me back to a hot Saturday afternoon in April, 2004.  Richard had found an old rotor tiller at the dumpster that only needed a $3 spark plug.  He would have torn up every inch of lawn and put in tomatoes if I had let him.  On Friday night, he had tilled up a space for a vegetable garden and an herb garden.  He was thinking about putting in CORN, but ran out of daylight, thank goodness.

So there we were on a muggy Saturday morning in the bugs and the heat, ripping out the flower beds that run allllllll the way across the front of this house.  Monkey grass and ivy snarled every inch that wasn’t covered in old snaggly holly bushes.  All of it was coming out.  Every blade.  Every prickly leaf.

The $3 tiller lasted about another hour.  Pretty good for our investment, but it left us with hours of work left to do.  We each got a spade and started digging up monkey grass and cussing.  Four, five, six hours later and we finally had the beds cleared down to red dirt.  Then came the cow manure–15 bags to stir into the red clay.   Hoeing, raking, shoveling, stinking.  Ah, homeownership.  And it was HOT.  H-dammit-O-dammit-T.

Richard was never one to quit halfway through a job or to say, “This can wait until tomorrow.”  So as soon as we had the cow manure mixed in, it was time to plant azaleas.  We toodled on over to Cofer’s and dropped a bunch of money on deciduous azaleas, native azaleas, and two little variegated specimens that he bought because they were called “Ashley Marie.”  Sweet.

By dusk, we had it all done.  You know how gardening is in the early stages–dinky and spindly.  I was left underwhelmed after all our efforts.  Neither of us could move.  As we lay there, prostrate on the reawakening spring lawn, one of our neighbors drove by in a tiny white Miata with the top down.  Her strawberry blonde hair sparkled in the last light of day.  She was smiling, and as she drove past, slowly, she checked to make sure we weren’t laying dead in the front yard.  Richard and I each raised a hand in a weak wave and she waved in return before cruising down the hill in her convertible, into the sunset.

In that moment, I so envied her car and her freedom and the energy she had to be kind.  I rolled my head over towards him and said, “I bet her azaleas are already established.  Pfffffft.”  I felt myself looking forward, into the spring days ahead that wouldn’t require all that back breaking work.  The days where I would awaken to a yard filled with flowers and a tiny white convertible all my own.

I still don’t have the silly car, but I do have the flowers.  Every spring, they make me smile, remembering all that sweat and toil.  Working on something together.  I think he would have loved how they turned out.

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