Monday, July 4, 2011

Play Me

Today is my mother’s eighty-ninth birthday. Her grandmother, too, was born on this day, back in 1859. Amanda’s old clock, the one I wrote about in The Painting of You, is still running. I wound it again two days ago. Amanda’s husband’s name was Lars. He was born in 1849. I was born in 1956. We’re giving Mom a basket of flowers this year. She loves flowers, but I think she might love baskets even more. Her garage, in fact, is still full of them. On Saturday, I went to Goodwill. They have a whole aisle piled high with baskets. I lingered there quite a while, thinking of what I might say someday about the little Mexican child in the store whose mother had given him a plastic music toy that was playing Mozart. I go to Goodwill to touch old things, things that have been worn and used in the act of daily living. I saw an image of Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, affixed to a nicely varnished piece of wood. On the back it said the piece was hand made in 1974 and given as a gift to a friend. It broke my heart to see it there. But I was happy — happier than I would have been, happier than I could have ever imagined, if I had not been born in 1956 and lived long enough to spend several years with my mother as her life and mind were being rearranged by Alzheimer’s. I didn’t bring a single thing home. I left The Blue Boy right where he was for someone else to see. And if I were a plastic music toy, I too would say, “Play me.”


erin said...

there was a time, william, when i felt it was my duty to rescue and love these things. and now with too many things and so many things even in my home unrecognized in the bulk and treasured less than they deserve, i recognize that it is only for me to witness them. like you i go and see and touch and leave. like you it breaks my heart. but we can not hold every moment. we can not nail them to their significance. we're almost irrelevant, yet not. we're only thinly tied. i had to learn that bit. and so we all pass one another, once loved, perhaps if we are lucky - still loved, and fading.

i see you. i laugh. if we were in the same store at the same time we might pass ailes away from one another so deeply immersed that we might not be able to see one another. but perhaps we would know anyway. we would feel.

1859, 1849, 1956, these dates are all the same, aren't they? i see all of your young faces. happy birthday to you all.


William Michaelian said...

In fact, Erin, I was rescued by each and every thing I heard and smelled and touched. And the things I occasionally do bring home, I bring because I sense they need more time to finish their work. And not everything I bring home can be touched, or even remembered. But it’s here all the same. And it can in turn be given and passed along, and, as you have shown, more fully understood.

Tess Kincaid said...

I, too, go to the Goodwill to touch old things, feel their stories, their energies, feel brokenhearted at the treasures discarded there.

William Michaelian said...

And of course there are a great many customers who are there plainly and simply out of physical need. I have been of their number and may well be again. But need is need, of whatever kind. Thank you, Tess.

Two Tigers said...

I've given many of my own things away to Goodwill, and have wondered what lives they led after they left my hands. And then, the things that may end up out in the world after I'm gone. I would hope that they answer some need ("need is need of whatever kind" so simply said, and such a staggering concept!) How strange that some of us have been and may continue to be at different times on either side of that most human of giving, of things we have called our own and let go.

Old 333 said...

Thanks for that, William; nicely said and written.

If I was rendered as a plastic music toy myself, I very much fear that I might be a kazoo. And a happy summer day to you; I hear some folks down south have a holiday today, so happy that, too, to William and to all.

William Michaelian said...

And in its own way beautiful, I think. You know, Gabriella, you’ve hit on at least part of why I feel that the marketplace, in its simple ancient sense, is really a sacred meeting place, and why money, too, which is considered by many to be evil, is really sacred script. We arrive with our needs, and in exchange for money or something of similar worth, we leave with our needs at least temporarily satisfied. It might be art, it might be bread, it might be a new or better pair of shoes. Money doesn’t poison us. We poison it. Now, I realize we could go on and on with this subject, but I’m sure you understand my thinking so I’ll leave it right there, with my thanks.

Quite right, Peter, a holiday is indeed in effect. I hope not too many fires are started. We pretty much hide out ourselves. Real war zones are abundant enough, without adding more fright to the air.

In grade school, some kids made music by blowing through combs cradled in wet paper towels. This was before everything had turned into plastic, of course. We had wooden tops, and when their metal points spun on concrete, they made a funny music all their own.

Thank you, sir.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Long Slow Family

When my grandmother was born
Victoria was Queen,
the year Jack the Ripper chose to kill.
John Wesley Hardin and Judge Roy Bean,
Bat Masterson and Belle Starr alive still.
Geronimo had surrendered just two years before.
My grandmother’s mother was born
before the first shot of the Civil War.

When my grandmother was only
eight years old,
Chief Joseph and Sitting Bull fought still to survive.
The rush was on for Klondike gold.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid still alive.
When my grandmother was born
there were only thirty-eight states,
Pancho Villa and Pat Garrett
not yet met their fates.

When her only son, my father, was born
In nineteen-hundred fifteen,
before the Great War, called World War One,
before the jets he would fly were ever seen,
three years before the Spanish Flu
killed ten million or more, including
his own grandfather and great grandfather,
it was just three years after the Titanic went down,
Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp and Annie Oakley
still around.

Such a long slow family, late to bear,
late to die and hard to kill
and I learned as a child
the only ways they knew, the old ones.
But I’m still here, just fifty-four,
third generation since the Indian Wars,
third generation since Wounded Knee
alive in the twenty-first century.

Since my father and my grandmother died
things seem to go ever faster: technology
and population, generations, even puberty.
But the past lives on in me
in long slow genes and memory,
the living result of history.
And now great-grandmothers younger than me
drop their ten-year old great-grandchildren
off at school.

My grandmother used to tell me what it was like
to take the wagon into town,
pull a bucket from the well, till the ground,
strive behind the mule with a plow.
Today, in the year two thousand and six,
grandkids tell their grandparents how
it’s awesome how they got their kicks and how
they think having actually seen the Beatles
was really cool. Wow.

Copyright 2008 – Tall Grass & High Waves, Gary B. Fitzgerald

William Michaelian said...

Beautiful, Gary, and I thank you.

Almost like a puppy,
the little Mexican boy
turned his head
to understand
the sound.

In the time it took to listen,
his mother became an oak
in solid ground.

And the field
where the store once stood
had never known
a plow.


And now I miss them too.