Alma was always impeccably dressed. She had matching shoes, hats, bags & gloves to go with every dress. Her hair was long and never turned white. As a girl, my grandma (Mimi) would go to her grandparents house on weekends. She would brush her grandma Alma’s long hair while she sat in her rocking chair. Mimi relished in running the brush through Alma’s long silky hair. After letting her granddaughter play for a bit, Alma would turn her hair up into a bun and head into the kitchen.
The stove was a coal stove and the coals had to be cleaned out several times a day through a grate on the side of the oven. It was one of my grandmother’s favorite chores. When you rake the coals, you just remove the ash, leaving the still burning coals. One day, Mimi did such a good job cleaning out the stove that she left no coals. Alma didn’t let her clean the stove for a while after that. My grandma swears that to this day, she has never had a challah that’s as good as the challah that came out of that stove. But we all have a food memory like that, don’t we?
Alma always had a pot of coffee on the stove top. Always. (I find this a bit ironic, since my mother, her namesake isn’t very fond of coffee, while I am a total fiend.) When they first came over from Russia, Alma opened a small bake shop and sold cakes & candies that she made (maybe this is where I get it from?).
One time when Mimi was staying with her grandparents, there was a big snow storm. There were no snow days given in schools at this time. The family lived in Waterbury, CT & for those that don’t know it, Waterbury has huge steep hills. Mimi, looked out the window, saw the snow and said, “Grandpa, I can’t go to school today, there is too much snow to walk.” He told her that she couldn’t miss school, that it was too important and she had to go. “But how? It’s too deep to walk that far up the hill!” In response to this, Hyman turned, went outside and got his shovel. He walked in front of his granddaughter the whole way up the hill, clearing a path for her to go to school.
Alma and Hyman, where very much in love. Hyman was a quiet man. He owned a dry goods shop in Meriden, CT. Everyday, Hyman told Alma that he loved her. As an older man, he lost his sight. One day while in the kitchen, he turned to her and said, “Alma, you look beautiful today.” She replied, “How do you know? You can’t see me.” Hyman answered, “I always see you.”
When there are deaths in my life, I become surrounded in butterflies.
In college, I was a 15 minute drive from Lake Ontario. I had some intensely painful choices that presented themselves, and so I drove to the lake to think. Autumn. It was sunset, and all of the trees along the waterfront were in silhouette, while the water was made crystal with the last of the sun low on the edge of the lake. As I walked, wrapped in my cardigan, between the trees and the water, I saw the branches move. There was little or no breeze coming of the water, often the great lakes are windy. I walked closer to the trees, the leaves were moving erratically, not pushed by wind, but each leaf with it’s own free will. Opening and closing, swaying, flipping. The trees in silhouette, looked ready to become an enchanted forest. I didn’t understand. I moved to the base of a tree and looked up. The branches were too full for October. The leaves were not leaves. Every branch, Every limb of that tree was covered in thousands of monarchs. The more I looked at the tree the more I saw. I couldn’t believe it. It was like opening a gift that you’ve desperately wanted, but had no idea until it was presented to you. Elation. I ran to the next tree, and the next and the next. It was the same with them all. Each tree filled with monarchs.
When my aunt died, it was 2:05 pm. I was sitting in a room reading. I was fine. Then suddenly, I felt nauseous. Utterly and completely ill. I wrapped my arms around my stomach and for some reason, I looked at the clock. 2;05 pm. After a few minutes the nausea went away, and I continued with my day. I was still living at home then.
I came home that evening and the phone rang. My mom asked me to get it. I wouldn’t. Instead, I became gripped with an unexplainable fear of that phone call. I shut myself in the bathroom. My mom answered. I eavesdropped through the door. She gasped and cried out. I knew what had happened. Aunt Pearl had died. We hadn’t expected her too. She had not been ill. She was in the hospital for a broken back, but she was not ill. With no expectation of this, I had known.
The hospital had her laying flat in bed. They gave her medicine and left the room. The medicine made her vomit, but she was flat on her back and unable to turn herself. She asphyxiated. The nurses came too late. She died a little after 2pm. She died while I had been reading a book of poems and then suddenly found myself ill.
At the funeral, my cousin spoke of butterflies. Everyone cried. I smiled.
My grandpa and I were extremely close. He was really more my father than my father had been. (Many people have said this of him. That he was like their father. That he changed their lives.) At his funeral, a butterfly landed on my shoulder.
Now, too many times to count. When my life is hard, when I am at crossroads, when I am lost, and sometimes, when I am just really happy – I see butterflies. And they come very close to me. And now I say, “Hi, Grandpa.” Because I’m certain that they are him.
The last month or so, has been really brutal for me. I’ve been more depressed than I have ever been before. Too many things going wrong, and nothing coming up for me to look forward to. Nothing to put my energy into. Nothing that I’ve tried lately has worked. It’s left me feeling really lonely.
Thursday, walking home from the train, there it was, a butterfly. “Hello there,” I said to it. Then I got a phone call. Would I join the cast of an upcoming performance project at LaMaMa?
My first rehearsal is tonight.
I fully expect butterflies in my stomach.
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” ~Andy Warhol
Hello blog world. I’m jumping in.
So, I just went to the Cindy Sherman exhibit at MOMA. I admittedly didn’t love all of the work. But the collected body and some individual pieces left me feeling like I needed to do something similar. To show myself in as many ways as possible. Her ability to capture massive beauty and truth in the portrait of herself as a clown or walking down the street are inspiring. I’m going again before it closes.
I used to take many photographs. I used to write all of the time. Then I got stuck.
Really really painfully stuck.
I created constantly. Then the act of creation (for me the reason to exist) became too difficult. I became frozen. Choreographing a mere 45 seconds of material was nearly impossible.
So now I’m bringing it ALL back.
I will write. I will document. I will photograph.
And I will choreograph.
It ain’t gonna be easy.
This whole getting unstuck thing.