Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kickin it with Nanamommy

Planted flowers at my great grandmother's grave with Mom today. Look at me, getting all swept up in tradition this year. Seriously, though, my family doesn't have many traditions that are positive, so I hold tightly to what there is.

We called my great grandmother Nanamommy--because that's what she was to everyone. And it was so commonly used that it may as well have been "Joan." I never thought it odd until I was an adult. And once in a while now, midsentence, I say, "Blah blah blah great grandmother blah blah blah." But I love the nickname. I love it like a child's blanket or a worn teddy bear.

Nanamommy's grave sits beneath a tree on the far end of Elmwood Cemetery in Bradford, MA. From her grave, one can see the flat she lived in up to her death, the second floor of a big, uninteresting green building. She lies beside her second husband, a man who died one year before I was born and of whom several disturbing stories were told. It's hard to know what's true about him, however. Mom shared a couple stories about him today. Fairly benign, but still telling. Nanamommy's first husband, who died of TB, lies elsewhere in the cemetery. My grandmother used to talk about her father with more love than she showed for anyone else. He died while she was still young, and stood on a high pedestal thereafter.

I was happy not only to be present with Mom to plant the flowers, but to actually help plant. To clear out the weeds, turn the earth, and put my bare hands into the soil over Nanamommy's body felt true. Organic. Close. See, Nanamommy died when I was young, so she stands on a high pedestal before me. To show her love and respect by beautifying the small square footage that is hers eternally feels more true than any prayer I could consider offering.

While there are other family members buried at Elmwood, Nanamommy is the only true, close family there. Everyone in my family who has passed since her has been cremated, boxed up, and handed to my mother, who keeps them in the front hall. The running joke during the holidays is that we can all be in the same room without any of the bickering.

It's sad, though, that no one else has been buried. There is only one stone to visit, to sit beside, to get tearful over. On those occasions that I think about family members who have passed, there's nowhere to go to ponder it--nowhere solid. It makes me consider the worth of a gravestone. Someday my mother will pass--and where will I go to talk to her? Because I will want to talk to her. I will want to plant flowers and cry and feel the dirt between my fingers. Because once the connection to the soul is lost, one needs to connect to something.

And along with the sense, from a recent post, that being a mother brings about immortality, so does a gravestone. Because I don't see just my great grandmother's stone in that cemetary. Mom and I wander a bit each year, checking out stones, noting names and dates. Today we stepped close to a tall pillar overgrown with hostas and vines--turned out to be poison ivy. This huge gravestone was encircled with poison ivy. I argued that frankly it would be fitting for my stepfather's stone someday, he being so cuddly and all. We laughed and walked back to the car.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Niecy, I need you

Got the key to the new place today. I'm less than excited about this whole move. I just don't have the energy for this. And the hallway in the new place smells like old soup. Like my great grandmother's triple decker in Bradford, MA, did. Bitch and moan.

I decided that I would only bring into the new place things that I need or truly want. No fluff. The rest will go away. What's hard is that sooo much of it is fluff. And it's all a mental game. So I have a collection of high heels. But I don't wear high heels. None of these shoes has touched anything but living room carpet. And I got rid of a few pair. But the rest . . . I like them, damn it. They're fiesty. Frankly, they don't necessarily need to leave home, if you catch my drift. But because the well is dry, they just sit in a closet like a whole other personality. Harrumph.

I did bring some stuff to the soupy apartment. Shoes I know I'll wear, fabric, some kitchen tools, bedsheets, blankets, winter coats. But then I stopped. I came back to the current place, sat on the couch, and stared around me--pretty much for the rest of the day.

I feel like my fork in the road offers three paths:
  • Just fucking take it all with me
  • Just fucking take it all to Goodwill
  • Get a small storage unit for a month so I don't feel so overwhelmed
I'm not excited about the first prospect. The point is to get rid of unnecessary stuff. And the third is borderline embarrassing. If I'm going to get rid of stuff, I should just do it--quick like a Band-aid. No pussy footing around. So that leaves me with option #2. Fine, but I have to get this shit out of here, into the car, and off into the sunset. I guess it sounded more logical to move the legit stuff and get rid of the rest, but the rest far outweighs the legit stuff.

It doesn't help that I'm sleep deprived and stressed at work. I'm just moments way from sucking my thumb and lying in a fetal position under my table.

I should go read a book.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Of all the homes I've loved before . . .

I'm moving . . . again. Fer cryin' out loud, I'm effing sick of moving. It got me to thinking about how many times I've moved/places I've lived . . .

8th floor Brown, UMASS
6th floor Brown, UMASS
Gorman, UMASS
Wheeler, UMASS
Silver St, Sunderland
Hitchcock Rd, Amherst
Meadow St, Amherst
Elm St, Hatfield
Montague Rd, Amherst
Meadow St, Amherst (2)
Georgetown (2)
Verdun St, Dorchester
Wisteria St, Salem

Then Kelly moves to New Hampshire . . .
High St, Somersworth
Canal St, Somersworth
Kent Place, Newmarket
Bennett Way, Newmarket

This will be my 16th move, 17th "home." I'm too old for this. You'd think it would help with my new quest to get rid of all my stuff. But it's slow going. This week, however, I have been scanning old documents into my computer. Pretty exciting. All the stuff I can't part with--old reviews from previous jobs, vet documents for Charlotte the cat, who died more than two years ago. That actually brought me to tears as I scanned. Bah, crying while scanning the paperwork listing her euthanasia. Some wounds run deep. Don't tell Millie the cat, but Charlotte was the love of my life. -k.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Keeping it simple

This morning I woke in Salem and had to quietly tip toe out of my friend's place to start heading north, it being Mother's Day and all. I got myself some Munchkins for the ride, got Mom's present, and decided to take back roads to NH, rather than the highway. I even drove through my old hometown. It's peculiar--how something can look so familiar yet so distant. I have memories linked to most houses and all stores in that town, yet I see the structures as an adult for the first time. So my memory waxes poetic, "I babysat there..." and my adult eyes think, "Did they always have a three-car garage?" Driving on the bridge over the Merrimac River in Groveland, I had child pangs. It hit me as one of those moments that I would have shared with my child, "Mama used to park on the Groveland side of the river and walk to the Haverhill side to watch the fireworks each summer..." But, there is no child to talk to. These are fleeting moments. But they exist now, whereas before they did not.

Got to Mom's. Gave her a beautiful orange begonia--just couldn't get over the color. And the gift she really wanted: cement. My mom asked for cement for Mother's Day. I felt like a pretty swell kid handing her that Home Depot gift card from little brother and me. She was elated.

We were enjoying the beautiful weather, and she was talking about all the things she wants to do with the gardens and where the new cement path will go, blah blah blah. And I realized how overgrown the gardens were. So I started to weed. She talked, I grabbed grass and roots and rocks out from between the violets and lavendar. I asked if she had a trowel. A few minutes later, we were both on our knees, wearing gloves and tearing at the ground. We talked about serious things and nonsensical things as we tossed clumps of green and dirt behind us. We didn't even look at each other. We just were.

Long ago, an ex pointed out that my mother and I have the same cackle. He was right. And as we talked about family and work and everything in between, we laughed and interjected and went on tangents and cackled. It was quality. At one point, she simply stated that having children made her immortal. It sent me right back to the bridge in Groveland and the pangs that I've been experiencing a bit lately: I'm not immortal. All this time putting together a family tree and archiving family photos--for whom? I think I'm starting to hear a faint tick tock in my soul.

Mom is pretty quiet. Like Grampa was. Not stoic, like him, but rather selfless. More concerned with the needs of others, and therefore apt to sit back a bit. Not always saying what's on her mind or expressing herself well. After hours of weeding, we had done a significant portion of the garden. I decided my back had had enough and I needed to get back to Millie the cat, who was probably trying to figure out how to work a match to burn the building down in anger at me for abandoning her. Mom and I stared at the gardens, talked about working on the vegetable and herb garden in a couple weeks, after I am settled into the new pad. She was happy. She didn't get into detail, but the few things she said were entirely genuine and heart-felt. And this is what Mother's Day should be about. That quality time that doesn't involve giving or receiving, but just being. Neither of us will forget today. And I want it to be the Mother's Day tradition going forward. Because the magic was all in two grown women kneeling in the dirt pulling weeds and talking. Mom, I love you.