A song greeted me when I came out onto the porch a few moments ago. The motion light flickered, struggling to decide between its restful daytime stasis and an acknowledgment of the lingering dark. Into the gloom, the crickets’ pulsating call rose, surrounding me.
I set my coffee on the metal table and took my chair. Though the deck extension didn’t exist in 2008 when I began the correspondence which would become these Musings, I sat outside to type that first entry. Memorial Day Saturday, and I sent a poem around to my lawyer’s listserve, into the inboxes of hundreds of unsuspecting brothers and sisters at the Bar.
A little shudder in the symphony raises my eyes from the keyboard. What distracts this chorus, I ask myself. I’m not sure what their song means. Is it a mating ritual? Do they warn of danger, whatever poses danger to crickets in the wild? Do they make a joyful noise?
My sister called last evening to check on me, as I knew she would. She senses my moods, the dark encroaching of my gloomy self. I tell her of the day’s events, and we speak for a few moments about our childhood, a subject which we largely ignore. Surprisingly, I find myself laughing. The unfamiliar sound ripples through my empty house in pleasant waves.
Joyce and I shared a room for the middle third of my childhood. I kept my half tidy; she barely had time to pick the clothes from the floor between school, work, and dates. I still lingered in the promise of pre-teen while she learned to apply blue eye shadow with a deft hand and worked at the Kresge’s store in nearby Northland Shopping Center.
One Saturday, I staged a long ribbon down the center, between our beds. The flimsy barrier blocked her from her side, marking my territory on the clean, doorway end of the long room. I lay in the dark waiting for her to come home and find out that she couldn’t get to her piles of jewelry and cosmetics. I fell asleep before the end of her shift, or her date, or whatever excitement kept her out past ten.
When I awoke early Sunday morning, Joyce lay curled under her quilt, having walked right through my little ploy, never seeing it. She had eschewed the light so as not to disturb her sleeping sister. Shame darkened my face as I coiled the ribbon and tucked it under my pillow.
My brothers Mark and Kevin got a tape recorder with S&H Greenstamps and went around for months recording some of the more embarrassing moments of family life. They tucked the little machine with its whirring wheels under the couch during bedtime prayers. My father snapped, Adrienne, get up on your knees, and the boys snickered. Later, they taunted my sleeping roommate and chortled when she screamed, Get out of here! They recorded a bit of song which admonished, You’re sooooo sleeeepppy! They played the tirade back to her at dinner time and howled when she whined to Mom about their treachery.
I blushed again, knowing that I had stood beside them the whole time, despite the fact that I adored my sister and knew how tired she must be.
Last night, Joyce and I spoke with something close to dispassion of the damage we understand ourselves to suffer, and the choices we’ve made on account of the violence and chaos which we endured as children. I found myself chuckling at the instant recognition which flashed between us. Neither of us can tolerate a raised voice or the sight of certain objects, whose multiple purpose we ruefully describe. We well recall the pattern; the angry shout followed by the sound of a telephone being torn from the wall and the whip of a belt through the air.
We note our childhood sounds like stuff with which movie stars bleed on endless pages, garnering thousands in advance as publishers rub their hands together beneath their leering grins.
Joyce and I rarely venture into these waters. Our decades of dancing this damaged jig have led us both to something close to peace. We share so many other common threads. We’re both alone; we’re both divorced; we’re both nesters sometimes bordering on the absurd, a need to surround ourselves with soft places to fall. We love our only children passionately, care for them tenderly, and worry about them incessantly. We collect useless knickknacks and too many blouses; and cry without embarrassment in the same fragile voices.
We prize small steps towards whatever healing our lives will accommodate. We take the pressure off one another with the soothing salve of acceptance.
A spider sends its gossamer web from somewhere over my head, the eaves probably, to the edge of the porch railing. It skitters along the thin pathway. I do not have the heart to disturb its progress. I lift my coffee cup, not caring that the drink has grown cold. As the spider nears its destination, I sit back, listening to the call of the small creatures hidden in the wilted patch of Black-eyed Susans. The sun rises. My Saturday begins.
Kindly click on the picture to see the spider’s handiwork.