Dear Older, about these cars. . .

sport-fury-brougham“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.” ~Goethe

This is the second in a series of letters between me and my friend, author Margaret Roach, on the challenges (and joys!) of aging. I’m Old (just 55) and she’s Older (facing 60 this year). And since we’re surely not the only ones buying wrinkle creams, we decided to share our exchange with you, too.  Be sure to read Margaret’s letter to me here.   

Dear Older,

Oh Margaret! You would have to bring up our cars.

Well, I’m not going to lie about age here.  Yes, my Acura is ten years old.  And she’s about to roll over 170,000 miles – that’s a lot of trips taken, a great deal of life lived, many bridges crossed.

Buying this car was the first thing Steve and I did in 2003 when we left the suburbs of Boston and moved back to my country roots.  If we were going to make our home in a place where the last snow might not melt til mid-April, I wanted a car that would carry me through our Northern winters without too much anxiety on my part.  “Good in snow” was my top priority when we went out shopping for new wheels.

It’s worth remembering that gas cost $1.54 a gallon when we arrived in New Hampshire to embark on this new life.  “Good mileage” was on my list, but it was somewhere below good visibility, comfort, and safety.

Jack was eleven and Henry was just starting high school when I began driving the kids around rural New Hampshire in my brand new silver MDX. (Family trips we took in our Toyota Sienna minivan – plenty of room for two parents, two boys, one dog and gear for all, and already showing the wear and tear of four years of hard daily use.) The Acura was the nice car.  My car.  And, I’ll admit: it was and is the only car I’ve ever loved.

A little back story:  I’m not a natural behind the wheel.  I shudder to recall my first solo forays on our rural roads after I got my driver’s license in 1974.  The car: my parents’ 1970 red Plymouth Fury sedan, graciously bequeathed to me.  The most notable feature of that car was its size.  Huge. I have vague, unsettling memories even now of drifting around curves in the road, wondering if I was going a little too fast, fighting to hold the car on the pavement, straining to sit tall enough in the broad, slippery seat to see out the windshield.  [continue...]

Celebrating Valentine’s Day (stories, music, & two irresistible cookie recipes)

hearts“And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”   ~ Paul McCartney

Hearts:

When my sons were young, we always made Valentines.  It was a joy for me to join my boys at our old Formica table in the playroom and, for a few February afternoons each year, devote ourselves to frilly matters of the heart.

Of course, we went all out. Our supplies were bountiful: stacks of construction paper, doilies, paper hearts, pink ribbons, lace, glue sticks and lots of sparkly stuff.  And the lavish creations borne of our efforts pleased us greatly.  Valentine’s Day was easy to celebrate: cozy, hands-on, messy fun.  Love made visible.

I still have our old box of Valentine paraphernalia in the basement, though it’s been over a decade since the three of us made cards together and the glue sticks have no doubt turned rock-hard.  I considered the box briefly the other day: should I carry it all upstairs?  Sit down by myself and cut up a few red doilies for old times’ sake?  No, I realized, that would just feel weird. [continue...]

Tender

snow angelAs I type these words, the world beyond my window is blanketed by snow.  There is silence in the house, save for the hum of the refrigerator, the whisper of warm air rising from the grates in the floor.  I’ve laid in groceries, mopped the salt and grit from the entryway, put tulips in a vase on the table.  The shoveling and snow-clearing can wait. There is no place to go, nothing to do but chop and roast some vegetables later for dinner.  Time slows. Edges soften. I feel a weight in my heart slowly begin to lift, my breath settle back into a deeper rhythm, my own sense of myself returning.

For a week I’ve been struggling with some old, familiar demons.  The fear of not being enough.  The need to protect my tenderest, most vulnerable feelings from the harsh light of day.  Self-doubt.  Regret for things said and unsaid in a relationship I cherish.  The wish that I could feel less, hurt less, and slough off more.   A piercing disappointment that try as I might to shape my life, there is and will always be so much that’s beyond my control or understanding.  The realization that I’m not quite as good at non-attachment as I like to think I am.

“The root of all suffering,” the Buddhists say, “is the desire for things to be different than they are.”

So simple.  So true.  But knowing it is so doesn’t make the wanting and the wishing go away.  [continue...]

Glitter and Glue

201402-omag-obc-14-284xfallI was sitting at my kitchen table answering email last Monday when a note from Kelly Corrigan popped into my inbox.  I don’t know Kelly personally, but somewhere along the way I must have signed up to be on her mailing list.

The note was casual, hastily typed, without so much as a capital letter – the kind of quickie email I’d expect to get from a close friend:

22 years ago i started writing a book about a family i lived with in australia and how that radically upended many opinions i held of my mother. 

Below, there was a link to a reading Kelly had done the week before, in a friend’s living room in California — an essay that serves (quite brilliantly) as a trailer to her new book, Glitter and Glue.

And so it happened that I was one of the first 100 or so people last Monday to click over to YouTube and watch Kelly talk about how her goal coming out of college was to become Interesting, with a capital “I.”

Convinced that “things happen when you leave the house,” Kelly sets off with her college roommate to travel around the world.  But it’s not long before she runs out of money, her dream of being a hippie explorer derailed by lack of funds by the time she hits Australia.  Instead of trekking in Tasmania, she winds up caring for two newly motherless children in a suburb north of Sydney.

It’s a coming-of-age story with pictures, condensed into five minutes, and it makes for great video. I was still wiping away tears as I shared the link on Facebook.  And then, without really thinking about it, I sent Kelly an email in return.  “Love the video,” I wrote. “And we share some territory.”

A reply flew back within a minute: “Of course I know you!”  Two days later, two books arrived from her publisher.  One for me to read and keep, and another for me to give away to one of you.

And here’s the amazing thing.  As I sat down on my sofa and began to read Glitter and Glue, it actually did feel as if I were settling in for a good long talk with my best friend.

Such is the magic of Kelly Corrigan.  The spell she casts – an irresistible  mix of vulnerability, heart, humor, bad-girl charm, racy language, and hard-won wisdom – draws you in close and holds you tight.  Her words weave an invisible inner circle, and there’s no place you’d rather be than right at the center of it with her, sharing a second cup of coffee, leaning in close so you won’t miss a word, getting down to the heart of the stuff that really matters.

So, I should warn you now: You will not read the first pages of Glitter and Glue and then set it down to go off and tend to other things.  [continue...]

How to savor (another) freezing February morning

IMG_3754“If your daily life seems of no account, don’t blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its treasures.”  ~ Rilke 

O
pen your eyes in darkness.

Listen to the heat kick on.

Snuggle more deeply into flannel sheets.

Say a prayer of thanks for the roof over your head, your warm house, the hot shower that awaits.

Turn your gaze toward the feathery frost on the window pane.

Allow moonlight to wash away sleep.

Watch stars wink out, the sky lighten by degrees, a scrim of rose etch itself across the mountain.

Rise with the sun. [continue...]