More Ordinary Things: E-G

More Ordinary Things

I began this December-long blog a bit lazily. I like lists. I like alphabets. I liked the idea of stretching a blog post throughout the entire busy month. I thought it would save me time.

I was wrong.

Instead, I am hyper attentive as I walk through my days. Asking myself all the time, “Is that something ordinary that I really love? Would I be glad to see that if I came back to life after being dead for a while?” I’ve finally started using the note function on my i-phone (it’s remarkably accurate when I speak into it).

In the beginning, I thought I’d do a letter or two every day. Instead I’ve done four letters in 14 days. And all of a sudden, I am running out of time. But I guess that’s the point, right. We’re running out of time. We’re on the high wire. We’d better pay attention.

More Ordinary Things . . .

Eggs. I love eggs. I love them in the shell and cracked into a skillet their orange yolks fat and bubbling in butter. I love them fried, the yolks barely set, sandwiched between two slices of white bread and mayonnaise, and I love them scrambled and stirred into soft yellow lumps. I love brown and white and beige and blue–those pale blue eggs. And the robin’s egg, cracked open and lying on a wet sidewalk after a surprise summer shower.

Ferns coming up in the spring. And ferns at the greenhouse, so big and lush that I buy one, forgetting how the previous fall, I cut my giant fern back and covered it in the garage, hoping to winter it through–vowing never to buy one again. And there I am, driving home with a fern in my trunk, making excuses, and falling in love all over.

Fingers. Oh baby fingers. So small and fragile you could bite one in two. Tiny fingers grasping a thumb in sleep. How can fingers be that little? 

Fizz. Fizzy water. Fizzy soda. Fizzy wine.

And fumbling things. What a delight to nearly drop something, to catch it, to fumble it again and catch it again. What a feeling of accomplishment, grace, athleticism. I always feel so good when I’ve fumbled and corrected.

Gingko leaves and gray days. Glass. Brown and blue and green and glass bottles. Bottle glass windows. Glass broken on the ground into a mosaic of shards.

Grins. Not smiles. Grins. Sly and knowing and a bit mischievous. Grins.

A Few Ordinary Things I Like: C and D

So I began this blog post on Monday with the grand idea to continue it throughout the Christmas season. To list a few ordinary things I like. A few super-ordinary things that I don’t think about a lot. The idea was to pay attention. The idea was to pay homage to the messy abundance and poverty of our lives.

And then I experienced a vulnerability hangover coupled with the committee’s voices.

Did I really admit I was crying as I watched the news coverage of George H. W. Bush’s life? I’m a democrat, for God’s sake. Did I really believe anyone cared about the ordinary things I like? How frivolous could I be? And sentimental? And naive?

I don’t know if you do this–second guess yourself, your intentions, your focus, the way you breathe or walk or salt your beans. What I’m getting at, I think, is my rather 8th-grade desire to be seen as I want to be seen–fairly hip for a 50 something, politically savvy, generous, genuine, and unsentimental.  The problem is that Bridgett doesn’t quite match up with this Bridgett sitting here at the computer.

This Bridgett isn’t all that cool. She’s ridiculously sentimental. Doesn’t know as much about politics, government, or history as she’d like to. Her ideas about right and wrong are pretty simple and often not all that nuanced. I’ll cop to generosity–I’m pretty generous. But mostly I fall short of that image I’d like to project. 

So what happens is silence. And that brings me full circle. Because I’m determined not to let fear shut me up. I choose bravery–even if that bravery is just putting a few words on the page and being honest and being open to the fact that my truth isn’t necessarily yours. I will fall down. I will make mistakes. But I choose speaking. I choose writing. I choose art.

I’m reading a compelling book of essays by an incredible writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates. The book is We Were Eight Years in Power. It’s a series of pieces written during the Obama years along with commentary as Coates looks back at each essay from this particular place in time. Coates writes about race and humanity and politics and love and writing and art. He gives me hope.

He writes: Art was not an after-school special. Art was not motivational speaking. Art was not sentimental. It had no responsibility to be hopeful or optimistic or make anyone feel better about the world. It must reflect the world in all its brutality and beauty, not in the hopes of changing it but in the mean and selfish desire to not be enrolled in its lie, to not be coopted by the television dreams, to not ignore the great crimes all around us.

Can I write into that tradition, with my sentimental heart? Can I write into that tradition with my lists, with my gratitude, with determination to be grateful? I don’t know, but I’m going to find out. 

So with that in mind, I’m going to finish my list.

A Few More Things

Crunching. The crunch of my feet against brittle fallen leaves. The delicious crackle as the leaves give while I walk over them. The crunch of icy snow clinging to grass. The crisp crunch of popcorn or a folded Lay’s potato chip.

Crabgrass and clover without which I would have no green in my yard.

Mint candles burning on the kitchen counter, windows cold to the touch, a dollop of cottage cheese on almost everything.

Dancing. G’s naked dancing on SnapChat. L’s dance moves. Dancing with my husband when we are both a little drunk on wine or beer and the kids aren’t home.

Doting and daffodils and dandelions tenacious in all sorts of weather, growing up in cracks and in empty lots and in yards sprayed to keep them gone.

Driveway. My driveway.

I use the word ordinary because this list is not a “my favorite things” sort of list. It’s a list of the things I might miss. Most of the things (and by this I mean actual things) I love would never be on this list. Take my car for instance. I love my car. It’s the nicest car Eric and I have ever owned. But I’m sure if I died and came back to life after being gone for a few days or a year, I would not be glad to see my car.

I would, however, be delighted to see my driveway. My driveway was new many years ago when my neighbor Johnny wasn’t dead, but strong and smiling and making inappropriate jokes. And one night when the driveway was still pristine, Eric and I, Johnny and his wife Terri sat on the driveway drinking beers as the bright spring sun waned into evening. At one point, we all lay back and looked up at the sky and laughed.

Driveway, indeed.

A Few Ordinary Things I Like: An Alphabet

Last week, before it became unseasonably and delightfully warm, I took a few blustery winter walks. The air was cold, the wind ruddied my cheeks and my ears burned. I felt so alive. Is this a little over-the-top? I mean–I’m talking about a couple late November walks. Most of the time when you hear, “I felt so alive” the speaker is remembering skydiving or mountain climbing–some perilous and exhilarating adventure that reminds a person just how small and tenuous our lives are.

I’m not likely to engage in many extreme activities–never was much of a dare-devil–so maybe that’s why an ordinary walk or two has that affect.  Or maybe it’s the holidays which render me more than a bit sentimental. (I’ve cried more than once listening to the letters written by the late George H.W. Bush.) Why is decency so compelling when coupled with death?

We don’t talk about death very much, do we? Oh sure, we memorialize and re-humanize famous folk. We publicly mourn for those we don’t know, but the truth is we are all dying all the time. (not any time soon, as far as I know and hope) And it might not be a bad idea to remember it.

This is new to me, believe me. For the better part of my life, I tried not to talk (or even think) about death–terrified that mentioning it out loud might give the universe, god, or the goddess a big idea. In fact, for years I practiced a nightly counter-measure.

When I was a child, we prayed every night:

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

WTF is that? I was terrified. Every time I prayed that prayer out loud with my parents, I had to do a little backstopping with God when they left the room, “And dear God, please don’t let Mom, Dad, Carol, Michael, John, or me die tonight.”

Whew.

Well, now I’m 51 (almost 52). And death is everywhere. I have friends who’ve suffered the tragic loss of a child with an indomitable courage. Every one of my cousins has lost at least one if not both of their parents. My parents have lost all of their siblings and their parents and many friends. My children have lost friends and so have I. We are, all of us, on a high wire all the time. And no, we can’t remember this every moment, or we would just wobble there, suspended in mid-air, too terrified to move.

And yet, (and here I go) life in all its beautiful complexity demands of us an attention that remembers how brief it is. And I think that sort of attention probably begets gratitude in its truest form.

***

This morning, I plucked Encyclopedia of an Ordinary LIfe, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, from the shelf in my office. There is no book, in my life, that pays homage as well to the ordinary things we all take for granted. And sometimes I need a little reminding. 

Under the heading Returning to Life After Being Dead,Rosenthal writes:

“When I am feeling dreary, annoyed, and generally unimpressed by life, I imagine what it would be like to come back to this world for just a day after having been dead. I imagine how sentimental I would feel about the very things I once found stupid, hateful, or mundane. Oh there’s a light switch! Ihaven’t seen a light switch in so long! I didn’t realize how much Imissed light switches! Oh! Oh! And look–the stairs up to our front porch are still completely cracked! Hello, cracks! Let me get a good look at you. And there’s my neighbor, standing there, fantastically alive, just the same, still punctuating her sentences with you know what I’m saying? Why did that used to bother me? It’s so . . .endearing.”

And I thought, what would it be like to spend December looking at the world in this way? Is this a silly exercise? I don’t know. A part of me thinks, shut up Pollyanna! But the soft, tender side of me says, Go for it.

And I’m going with tender. So for the next couple of weeks, I will post here in an alphabetical order of sorts a few ordinary things I like. And we’ll see what happens. And if you want to join me in the comments, I would love that.

So here we go.

A Few Ordinary Things I Like

A

Angles of Light: The sun filtered through the wall-length window in my kitchen, warming the light blue walls and the cool gray cabinets. The blue sky through a canopy of green leaves. The ripples of shine on yellow Gingko leaves like cold fleck beneath a just bare tree. Clouds quilted with patchy light.

Apples. In particular Honey Crisp apples because crisp is the aspect of the apple most important to me. I used to be partial to Granny Smith–also crisp, but I find that as I age, sweetness has become more important to me. The Granny Smith is a tiny bit too tart, a little too edgy. 

B

Bingo: I don’t get to play very often, but I love it. I went through a bingo faze when I was 28 or 29 and also working on my bachelor’s degree. My daughter, Sydni, who was about three thought the school and the bingo were the same thing when she told a crowd of people proudly, “My mom is going to school for bingo!” (I was perhaps playing a little too much.)

Blustery days: I like the wind. I like the chill on my cheeks. Leaves skittering across the road, trees bending and squeaking. 

Books: Old and musty, new and crisp, broken spines, hard covers and soft covers, words, and lines and sentences, poems and stories and histories. I love holding them in my hands. I love sleeping with them alongside the bed and under the cover. I like the way a book meets you where you are. I like it that I can hate a book one week and adore it a year later. I have hundreds of favorites.

C

Carpet: I don’t have carpet anymore, anywhere in my house, and sometimes I miss it. The reason carpet is gross is exactly the reason I miss it. It hides a multitude of sins. I have two pugs, and if I had a rough beigey carpet, you’d never see huge tufts of dog hair peeking out from beneath the couch.

Okay–that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow or the next day with a few more.