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Saturday, October 27, 2007

At least two

It’s been a fairly serious week or two with the lower back, so I’ve been scarce -- not turning up at a lot of meetings, not doing outside chores -- just struggling in to work and home to bed.

Granddaughter was here, and in lieu of playing together with the toy kitchen or roaming around the "back forty," we lolled around in the big bed watching anime -- something about a girl with super powers in the way of ballet dancing, who turned into a comical duck whenever she lost her necklace. It was a relatively quiet visit, not just because of my limitations; she seemed to have a lot on her mind. The world is much with us, even when we are in the third grade.

Today, a day or two after the harvest moon, was the first frost! I have seen them fifty days earlier than this. Very sobering, along with the fires in dry California and the continuing rapid disappearance of the Arctic ice and sliding away of Greenland's ice cap.

I felt up to working about the yard a bit, and spent a couple of hours in brilliant October sunshine getting the leaves out of the driveway, where they were five inches deep, and onto the garden, shredded. I'm hoping to go back and make a few weeks' worth of kindling as well.

The frost killed the tomatoes in the garden, finally -- they had grown to a great old age -- but has only touched the zucchinis, which might go on a bit longer, as well as the tomatoes around the house, which seem to have derived some protection from heat radiating from the foundations after yesterday's sunshine. The orb-weaving spider that has spent the last couple of weeks eating a nicely trapped and wrapped honeybee is nowhere to be seen; perhaps she's in hiding among the curled, brown-tinged Brandywine leaves.

Beloved has gone to more trouble than we usually do with fall-planted crops. I see the beets she planted for me are doing well, and some turnip greens, and some very large, healthy-looking Romaine-type lettuce practically dominates. She has been chopping corn stalks and sunflower stalks, and uprooting their stumps, which are lying about like root wads of timber after a storm salvage. She has taken all the pumpkins but the Hubbard squash are still hardening off. There are a lot of onions waiting to be pulled. She has trays of seeds in various places around the house and potting shed, and by this I see that she means to raise Roma, Brandywine, Jelly Bean tomatoes, scarlet runners, broad beans, among other things, and a spectacular nameless long-podded green bean, of which a few came to her in the mail from a friend, and all of whose progeny were dedicated to increase.

Thus one articulates hope by the work of one's hands.


Auntie, whom some of you will remember from a few years ago -- my mother's childhood and lifetime friend, who has always been the cheerful one of us all, and a chaser away of clouds from others' horizons -- is beginning to lose ground. She's been on dialysis for her kidneys, which are giving up, and now her liver seems involved -- which means she faces constant bouts of debilitating nausea. I can imagine few things worse. She lives three thousand miles from here; she has family and friends. If I were to go there I'm afraid I would be underfoot; besides which there's a chihuahua in that house who is on my terrorist watch list. But if you are one of those whose prayers are effectual, please put in a word for her.

When I was very small -- I have told these two stories before, but bear with me -- I was prone to disasters involving bullies. The most spectacular instance occurred in my grandmother's back yard. The neighborhood kids were playing there, and I, age about eighteen months, as it is told me, toddled out to them while the grownups argued, as was their wont, over coffee at the kitchen table.

My grandma became aware of a sudden silence out back, and, feeling a prickling at the back of her neck, went out to investigate. She found me lying face down by the privet hedge under the plum tree by the back fence, with red stains on the sparse shade-grass. A chunk of quartz, with a bit of red Georgia clay adhering, lay beside me. I was not moving.

She clumped back into the house and sat down heavily at the table. Something about her expression caused the conversation to trail off.

"Well," she said, "The baby's gone."

"Gone?" asked her daughter, my mom. "Whaddya mean, GONE?"

She got up, ran down the stoop and across the yard, and rolled me over. My forehead was gashed -- the scar was prominent for decades -- and my lips, she tells me, had turned blue.

She breathed into me. I hiccuped, and began crying.

This story, which is, for me, hearsay, is linked in my mind for some reason with another, which, because no one has told it me, and I was too young to retain much of it, is hazy, but is one of my few early recollections.

Auntie's son, several years older than I, was having a birthday party. I was there because I was my mom's only child and there was no way my mom would have missed being there.

The kids in that neighborhood were, though, a bit of a rough crowd. The games tended to be participatory, athletic, ad hoc, and hard-edged. I was out of my element just by being in line of sight.

I do remember being surrounded by people bigger than me, and seem to remember they had some issue with me -- I was, I gathered, a sissy, would never amount to anything, and apparently ought not to have been born.

Something terrible was going to happen -- and I think I do remember a bit of deja vu -- as in "oh, no, not again -- "

-- at which Auntie interposed herself firmly between me and them and said something that scattered them, and as I remember it, I never left her side the rest of that day.

Fifty years later, when I had begun my transition but was not yet out to my mom, Auntie looked at the two of us and said, rather knowingly -- "you two would make a perfect mother and daughter" -- of course, she was right, as always.

Everyone should have at least two moms. I think I'll give her a call right now.


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