Thursday, January 7, 2010


Tonight, I returned to singing. (I brought the seed-stitch scarf project along.) It felt great. My diaphragm expanded, making more room for my heart. I felt like the Grinch after seeing that the Whos wake up and join hands in a circle to sing the Faroo Daroo song (or whatever it's called) without any packages, boxes or bags. They may have no gifts, but they still have each other, and they still have their song. About seven years ago, my daughter Annie (who was then only 14) and I joined the choir at the Unitarian church we attend. We're both second altos, so we were able to sit together, blend our voices, and doodle on one another's music (oops, fellow Unisingers, you didn't read that). We'd giggle at the silly tenors and bases who were constantly wisecracking and acting out, as if they were teenagers. We'd yawn toward the end of the night and wonder when it would end ... and then burst into our second winds on the car home, loudly performing the parts we'd just learned, and tweaking them to suit our over-tired hysteria. But the memory I cherish the most is of hearing her sweet, haunting voice in my ear. After she left for college in the fall of 2006, I returned to choir alone. The chair beside me in the Alto II section was inhabited by someone else. I didn't stay with it long. I felt like I was sleepwalking through life that fall, except for the times that I awakened in the middle of the night, shaking with anxiety, terrified that I'd never get over the sudden and painful disappearance of my first child. I'd wanted her to go to the college of her choice, and she did, but damn it, it was 400 miles north, and such a good choice that she was absorbed by her new life and didn't really need to talk to me much at all. I left her room intact, and whenever I had the courage to enter it, the lingering scent of her brought me crashing onto her bed, wracked with a deep sense of loss even though she was alive and well and even thriving. It was only partly about Annie. It was also about the beginning of the end of that part of my life, when nothing else mattered when one of them had a fever, when waking them up was the first task of my day. When I ate what they liked. Even with my two younger children still with me, everything changed the day Annie packed her boxes and trunk into the back of her father's Acura and drove away. The yellow VW bug she'd driven for two years was in my driveway. Just looking at the empty, stationary representation of her quirky effusiveness made me feel like an empty walnut shell. So I find it ironic that four years later, having pulled myself through years of alternating depression and manic self-distraction, intentional change and growth and the accompanying abandonment of delusion, now that I am finally enjoying the transition into the next phase of life, and anticipating with enthusiasm the impending freedom after Child 2 and Child 3 go to college, I've been told it's time to rehash every miserable experience of my life. I've been in more therapy than hippos have been in mud. I've been put on more different antidepressants than Baskin Robbins has flavors. Some of this therapy and medication worked, but I didn't really start feeling myself (a person I'd not seen since I was about 18) until last summer, the last summer of the first decade of the 21st Century, when I made a huge decision -- never to drink another alcoholic beverage again. Doctors and psychiatrists tell you not to drink with the meds, and it's right on the pill bottles. But hey, who takes that seriously, right? A glass of red wine a day actually helps women live longer. I don't remember reading anywhere that the occasional night out drinking martinis, then wine, then kahlua is supposed to extend one's life. But it sure made it easy to forget that the empty nest was just around the corner. Until the next morning, that is. So, now well into this exercise, and happier than I can remember ever having been, on the advice of other determined nondrinkers, I've been told to "do an inventory" -- that is, confront my defects, resentments, and general mishegas through writing a long rumination on the moments of my life that have contributed to my current despair, anger, fear, and hate ... wait a minute, am I in Star Wars? I'm supposed to start with my earliest memory, and trace back through my entire life looking for memories that still make me cringe. I'm a writer. I go into detail. I don't have enough years left for this. I'm almost finished with the scarf. It's deliciously black, and nubby, and soft. I often feel let down at the end of a project, as is common when I finish reading a long, gripping novel. Perhaps that's why I didn't used to finish my knitting projects, but keep them around, always having them somewhere in a basket like a puppy never grown into a dog. Nothing stays the same, right? And nothing ever changes the way you think it will ... When I enthusiastically ordered my first drink ever, a Tanqueray and tonic (how sophisticated, I'd thought) to celebrate my "coming of age," I wanted everything to be different ... right then! I wanted all the freedom that comes with being an adult. And instead, I took the first sip, and my very first step toward becoming enslaved. We knew so little as teenagers, and so many of us still don't admit what we don't know, today. I hereby openly admit: I've been a knitwit, fumbling through life. But not anymore. Bring it on, rotten memories. I'm ready. I'm going to condense you, dehydrate you, and brush your dust off my life. I went out tonight, and I refound my voice. And you know what's amazing? It sounds a lot like Annie's. Binding off.

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