Respect Your Elders

Me and the blonde.

Me and the blonde.

I am so unmoved to write these days.  I have blamed it on the visual nature of my work in the arts, and not without merit.  Writing has become about what I see, feel and need to communicate, rather than simply what I feel and need to communicate.

Tonight, sitting in my husband’s studio after closing the gallery, the same old woman came to mind.  Why does she inspire me so?  Particularly her line, “…better people than her don’t like me.”  I laugh to no end at that.

I’ve written about it before.  Once, I told her, smiling, “I don’t think she likes you”, speaking of my step mother.  Both of us knew she didn’t, but I felt, as always, the need to share my opinion.  (Sorry, not sorry.) There was a hatred, based on a fear…a fear of loss of control (of my father)…which is of course, an illusion anyway, witness, the divorce.

Before she died, my grandmother put her wedding ring in my hand, and asked me to keep the family together.  Ugh.  I tried, because I love her so.  Also, I failed. They just weren’t that interested.  Additionally, after two years, I had enough.

Though I boast an insanely similar personality to Miss Edith Margaret Taylor Goodman, I don’t hold the same sway over my elders.  Once I came to grips with the fact that I failed the only person in this world who ever understood and loved me unconditionally for the passionate and difficult creature I am, (that she also was, this is a woman who flipped a table at a bar in rural Mississippi in the ’40’s over anti semitic remarks in relation to her propriety), I began bonsai’ing my family tree with a vengeance. Fuck it.

As I sat in the studio with my husband / boyfriend of 22 years, reminiscing about the fabulous woman she was..is…will always be…it occurred to me.  She wouldn’t hate me for the chop, chop, chopping of the old family tree.  She’d understand, be disappointed, but respect me for it.

She routinely called one of her daughter in law’s a shit stirrer, and never related to the, Hi, I won’t answer the front door when you visit, but here’s a Happy Thanksgiving card. I tried, to make nice, as she had done, but had to agree, she was a shit stirrer.  Snip, snip goes the bough.  Another, the recipient of the best comment of all time, “…better people than her don’t like me”, I gleefully cut that branch off with a fucking chainsaw laughing all the while.

Other sick limbs fell. Those, I cried over, but they were rotting and needing to go, or risk infecting the rest of the tree.  It was sad, and took a fair amount of intestinal fortitude.  If a bud ever grows back, I’ll nurture it, but it’s not up to me.  She’d have recognized and appreciated that.

Ultimately, I am so grateful.  Grateful, that she raised me, or “trained me”, as she liked to say.  Grateful she met two of my three children…the third bears her name, as promised, Sophia Margaret… Grateful she knew my husband, which is where tonight’s conversation began.  That man got the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

He called her out.  When she was dying.  …of bone cancer…  He told her she was being selfish in not letting me see her.  He told her I cried when we got off the phone.

Her response?  “Your husband gave me a sermon.  He said I was selfish for not letting you come see me.  He said you cry when we get off the phone…like I don’t know you.  …but don’t tell him I told you or he won’t talk to me like that anymore.”

Respect.

S. Conde

Undone

What we love with passion undoes us. This is known.

So in choosing love we accept death.

Embrace it.  Know that it comes regardless.

Some claim to love life, yet simply fear death.

The inevitable.

They straddle the sidelines.  Forever safe.

From a comfortable distance.  And they live.  They exist.

But what life is this?

Is it better to risk all and love with passion?

…or quietly from the womb like cocoon of a reclining chair?

 

S. Conde

 

 

 

Reversing Polarities

I went to speak with her last night.

A perfect night.

A warm and windy night.

I approached the steps of her home.

There she moved, in front of me.

Divine.  Glorious. Dancing.

Naked and wild under the new moon.

I smiled.  She noticed.

I approached lovingly.

Respectfully.

She tickled my feet with cool fingers.

Questioning where I’d been.

Laughter was my only reply.

She knows me.

I asked her to bathe me. To wash away my fears.

She agreed, in her way, and kissed me.

Slowly at first, as was my desire.

Our passion grew in perfect rhythm.

One with the other.

She blessed me with wave after wave of salty water.

Cleansing me of worry.

With each swell my burden dissipated.

Relieved.

As I relaxed, so did she.

Receding.  Soft, rolling undulations.

Allowing me to finish the process myself.

 

Photo by Jaime Ferreyros

“Day Of The Mermaid”                                           Photo by Jaime Ferreyros

 

 

S. Conde

An Angel

On this day I was given a gift.

A gift born of love.

Unwrapped and crying.

The color of peaches and cream. Twenty four inches long.

Alive.

Today, you stand tall.  A man.

Proud, handsome, and strong.  Kind, loving, and full of laughter.  Full of life.

My darling, my Angel, my sunshine-y boy.

You have so much to give.  So much to share.

You will find your way.  Make your path.  Create your world.

You are the knight flying through the air.  Mind, body and spirit united.

You will succeed.

You are loved. You are love.

You fill my heart with joy.

I love you now, then and forever.

Happy Birthday my son.

You make life better.

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S. Conde (Mama / Momo)

 

 

 

My Love

He is already asleep.

I turn off the television, and slide in. Between the sheets.

Unconscious, yet aware.  He pulls me over to him.

His big hand around my waist. He holds me.

I rearrange the pillows to suit.  Snuggling in to his warm embrace.

My feet are cold. I slip them between his legs.  He moves to accommodate me.

I have never loved a man like this man.

His mere presence pleases me.

My concerns are his.  His concerns are mine.

I can not imagine a world without him.

His slow gentle breath on my neck, and the smell of his skin comfort me.

This is my love.

In the bed, our bed.

 

S. Conde

 

 

Speaking In The Vernacular

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She had a cadence to her voice.  A pattern to her speech. Sublimely Southern in her delivery.

Rarely did she volunteer her opinion.  When asked, she chose her words with care.  She spoke in a kind of code. Responding indirectly,  answering questions not yet asked.

She could cut you down, lift you up, make all clear in a phrase.  You’d remember what she said, because you’d feel it, everywhere, all at once.  Her words had a way of traveling through your ear, bypassing your brain and attaching themselves to your soul.  …or maybe that was just me.

Revealed by her words was a peacefulness which came from the country.  Swinging slowly with the breeze.  Sipping tea.  Rocking in a chair on the porch.  Friends with time.  At one with the natural rhythms of life.  …or maybe that was just her.

She made me feel calm.  Safe.  Loved.  Scratching my back softly she’d sing to me.  Sometimes just repeating two words over and over.  “Purty baby, purty baby…”

She wasn’t perfect.  She had a short temper, like me.  No patience for ignorance, like me.  Once she decided she didn’t like you, chances are she never would.  Like me.

On my stepmother:  “MeeMaw, I don’t think she likes you.”  “That’s ok baby, better people ‘n her don’t like me.”

On my ex husband: “MeeMaw, what do you think of him?”  “I don’t know.”  “What do you mean you don’t know? I’ve been married to him for five years.”  “I mean, I don’t know.  He never says anything more to me ‘n what I wanna hear.”

On me, while married to my ex husband:  “What the hell happened to you?  You didn’t used to be afraid of nuthin’.”

On my husband who’d cornered her at a family gathering after she’d been diagnosed with bone cancer:  “Your husband gave me a sermon today.”  “He did?”  “He told me I was being selfish for not letting you come and see me…and that every time you get off the phone with me you cry.  Like I don’t know you.  …but don’t tell him I told you, or he won’t talk to me that way anymore.”

On cigarettes:  “I guess I shouldn’t have smoked, but I did so enjoy it.”

On dying: “MeeMaw, are you scared?”  “I’ve never done this before baby.  Should I be?”

I listened closely when she chose to speak.  For as she was fond of saying, it is not a babbling brook, but still water, which runs deep.

 

 

 

 

The Feeling

There are no words to describe it really.  I can only speak of the feeling.

It starts deep within me at the base of my spine and spreads upward with a warmth and tingling, throbbing even.  Up to my belly it goes.  Hot, aching, reaching my heart.  Down my arms into my hands; alive with electrical vibrations.  My throat opens to speak the words and hear them spoken.  Though I am blind, literally, figuratively, in every sense of the word, my eyes are open and I see you.  The literal you, the figurative you, you, in every sense of the word.  I close my eyes and there you exist inside of me, in my mind, in my soul, in the me that goes on forever. There I see us as we are, have always been, will always be.

I love you.

S. Conde  (Chi Chi)